No. 1 Texas baseball keeps Alabama's offense from warming up on a chilly night at the ballpark
It was a chilly evening at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, but Aaron Nixon didn't wear long sleeves under his jersey.
Texas' sophomore relief pitcher said he never wears long sleeves, so he wasn't about to start Friday, even when temperatures dipped into the 30s. Besides, he had a heater in the dugout to keep him warm.
So Nixon wasn't bothered by the cold. He wasn't that fazed by high-pressure situations, either. He stranded runners on third base twice in No. 1 Texas' 1-0 victory over Alabama.
With the series-opening victory over their future SEC foe, the Longhorns remained undefeated.
"We grinded through it today," Nixon said. "Tough conditions for our hitters, and they grinded through it. They got us the win. It was a team thing, and we're just really happy to be here."
With one out and two runners on in the eighth inning, Texas (6-0) called for Nixon out of the bullpen. Alabama eventually loaded the bases with two down. On a 1-2 count, however, Nixon caught pinch-hitter Will Hodo looking at a slider to end the inning.
"Bases loaded, I was just trying to execute pitches to get that out, and I did," Nixon said. "It was awesome."
Nixon returned to the mound in the ninth. Alabama kept its hopes alive with a one-out double by Drew Williamson, who eventually reached third on a wild pitch.
Nixon struck out the next batter. With left-hander Luke Harrison ready in the bullpen, UT coach David Pierce kept Nixon in the game but conceded that "it was probably Aaron's last hitter right there."
Facing Zane Denton, Nixon got the No. 3 batter in the Alabama lineup to hit a foul pop. Texas third baseman Skyler Messinger ran it down for the decisive out.
Messinger "does it all the time in practice," Nixon said. "I've seen him do it a million times. No, no doubt at all."
In total, Alabama stranded 12 runners. The Crimson Tide (5-1) also wasted a bases-loaded opportunity in the fifth inning. With two outs, Pete Hansen got out of that jam when Denton flied out to right field.
That was Hansen's 86th and final pitch. In his second start, he struck out eight batters and allowed four hits. Hansen has yet to allow a run over the 11 innings he's worked this season.
"He's always been a command guy with his fastball, but I liked the way he utilized it more so tonight instead of going to the slider so often," Pierce said. "He spotted it up so well that when he threw the slider, it was pretty much lights out for him."
Travis Sthele earned the win after pitching two innings of one-hit relief. It was the first career win for Sthele, a redshirt freshman who was sidelined last season by an elbow injury.
Key play: Alabama pitchers Garrett McMillan and Dylan Ray limited Texas to a season-low five hits. One of those was a seventh-inning single by Messinger.
Messinger reached third base after Trey Faltine was hit by a pitch and Alabama catcher Dominic Tamez was charged with a passed ball. Ray then uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Messinger to score the game's only run.
Texas has 54 runs this season, and three have come on wild pitches.
Notable Number: 4. Douglas Hodo III recorded four at-bats out of the leadoff spot in the Texas lineup. The third-year outfielder did not record a hit.
Hodo's father played on the Longhorns' 1983 national championship team. Texas clinched the fourth title in school history with a 4-3 win over Alabama on June 11, 1983. Douglas Hodo II did not appear in that decisive game, but he did go 1-for-2 in a 6-4 beating of Alabama that also took place during the 1983 College World Series.
Friday brought the first meeting between Texas and Alabama since the 1983 College World Series. Friday also featured a reunion for the Hodo family since Douglas Hodo III's cousin Will plays for the Crimson Tide.
Up next: Texas and Alabama will return to UFCU Disch-Falk Field at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Texas right-hander Tristan Stevens (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will be opposed by Alabama lefty Antoine Jean (0-0, 4.50).
As part of its TraDISCHions series, Texas plans to honor Calvin Murray at the game. Murray was an All-American outfielder who played for the Longhorns from 1990 to 1992. Murray's 139 career steals is still a school record.