Texas outfielder Eric Kennedy slides safely across the plate as LSU's Landon Marceaux awaits the ball on March 2, 2019. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Baseball

No. 22 Texas takes early lead, moves step closer to sweep of No. 2 LSU

Six early runs and solid pitching give Longhorns the edge in 8-4 victory.

Posted March 2nd, 2019

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Story highlights
  • UT has only five hits but capitalizes on Tigers' mistakes.
  • LSU is among NCAA leaders in batting average and scoring but can't ovecome Texas' pitchers.
  • Teams will play series finale Sunday afternoon.

Not long after an announced crowd of 7,601 exited UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday evening, a cleanup crew roamed the stands. On Sunday, though, it might be the Texas baseball players who are handling the brooms.

Thanks to six early runs and a solid pitching performance, Texas coasted to an 8-4 win over LSU on Saturday. After that success and an 8-1 triumph Friday, the Longhorns will have a chance to sweep the Tigers on Sunday. LSU and Texas were ranked second and 22nd, respectively, in this week’s D1Baseball poll.

“If we have an opportunity to win a sweep on a Sunday, you’re in a pretty good position,” Texas coach David Pierce said. “Now you have to be able to overcome that you’re 2-0 and the other team is going to fight and claw to not get swept. We’ve got to want to sweep more than they don’t want to be swept.”

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Texas (9-3) chased Tiger starter Landon Marceaux from the game during a second inning that featured six runs and four hits. Eleven Longhorns batted in the inning, and first baseman Tate Shaw reached base twice. A two-run single by Eric Kennedy was the biggest swing of UT’s long at-bat, and the freshman outfielder later scored when he stole third base and kept running on Marceaux’s wild pitch.

Going through the batting order during a single inning has not been an unusual occurrence for the Longhorns this week. In a 10-3 rout of Sam Houston State on Tuesday, DJ Petrinsky led off and was later responsible for the third out of a six-run fifth inning. In Friday’s meeting with LSU, 11 plate appearances were spread out among 10 Longhorns as Texas scored five times in the seventh.

Texas, which had only five hits Saturday, led 6-0 after that supersized second inning. Over the final seven, LSU (8-2) never got any closer than three runs.

“Everybody grinds out at-bats; there’s no easy outs,” Kennedy said. “If one person gets a hit, then there’s a very good chance that a few other people after him are going to get a hit.”

Texas pitcher Blair Henley (27) celebrates an LSU baserunner being thrown out during an NCAA baseball game on March 2, 2019 in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
LSU entered the weekend ranked among the NCAA’s leaders in both batting average and scoring, but the Tigers were subdued for a second straight day in Austin. One year after he beat the Tigers in Baton Rouge, junior Blair Henley gave up five hits and three earned runs over a six-inning start. The star of the stat sheet, though, was redshirt freshman Cole Quintanilla.

Quintanilla was called upon after Henley allowed two base runners to open the seventh inning. He worked the final three innings and yielded only a ninth-inning single. The right-hander struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced.

Quintanilla sat out last season while recovering from an elbow injury he suffered during his senior year at Cedar Park High School. Over six appearances this season, Quintanilla is 1-0 with two saves and a 0.77 ERA. Over 11 2/3 innings, he has struck out 17 batters while issuing only one walk.

“When I saw him (in high school) I knew he had a chance to be special,” Pierce said. “I think he’s proved a lot of people to this point, not necessarily wrong, but he’s proven that he’s exactly what I saw back when I was recruiting him.”

The three-inning save by Quintanilla was recorded one day after Kamron Fields had an effective appearance out of the bullpen. Fields pitched the final 2 1/3 innings of an 8-1 win, and he allowed only two walks. Quintanilla, Fields, Mason Bryant and Nico O’Donnell have all earned a save this spring, and redshirt junior Donny Diaz is another favored option in the bullpen.

“We’re damn good right now. I believe that we have a shot at making Omaha as long as we keep up with our bullpen,” Quintanilla said. “Our starting pitchers are doing a great job right now, and as long as we just continue to do our jobs, I think we’ll be set for the rest of the season.”

Texas outfielder Tate Shaw (4) high-fives teammate Austin Todd (44) during an 8-4 win over LSU on March 2, 2019 in Austin. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Around the bases: After walking three times Saturday, Texas outfielder Duke Ellis upped this year’s total of free passes to 21. … Texas committed two errors, one of which scored an LSU run. UT has five multi-miscue games this season. … Kennedy’s three RBIs matched his career high. … Sunday’s finale should feature Texas RHP Coy Cobb (0-1, 2.61 ERA) and LSU RHP Eric Walker (1-0, 4.50 ERA) as the starting pitchers.

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