Ask Texas pitcher Ty Madden about teammate Lance Ford, and he’ll tell you that “little kid’s got juice.”
The stats might beg to differ. Over the first 110 at-bats of his freshman year, UT’s 5-foot-10 second baseman had yet to hit a homer. He had eight RBIs to his name. Ford himself estimated that he went deep only twice during his time at Kerrville Tivy High.
But at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Sunday, Ford showcased that “juice” in a 10-2 win over No. 17 West Virginia. Ford hit two homers against the Mountaineers, one of which was a grand slam. The victory was the first in a seven-game stretch for Texas, which opened Sunday a half-game behind eighth-place Kansas in the nine-team Big 12.
“That’s been a long time coming. That’s our first Big 12 win in a while. We needed that one a lot,” Ford said. “It does kind of free up some tension because we have been pressing for that win.”
— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) April 28, 2019
The first homer of Ford’s career gave Texas a 2-1 lead in the second inning. After doubling during a three-run fourth, Ford once again sent a baseball over the fence in right field. With that grand slam, Ford became the first Longhorn to hit two homers in a game since Kody Clemens accomplished the feat during a 2018 regional against Texas A&M.
After the game, Ford told reporters he was using a Louisville Slugger Select 719 bat that had sat unused in his locker this entire season. More so than his new bat, Texas coach David Pierce was impressed with Ford driving the ball and using his “powerful legs” at the plate.
“He’s been a hitter since he’s gotten here,” Pierce said. “He’s had a lot of good days for us. Not great like today, but a lot of good days.”
In the field, Ford helped turn two double plays while the game was still close. His overall effort backed one of Madden’s best outings of the season.
The freshman right-hander allowed six hits, one walk and one earned run. Over six innings and 91 pitches, Madden struck out three batters. He improved his record to 4-1 and now boasts a 2.10 ERA.
“This level, you’ve got to learn how to pitch instead of throw,” Madden said. “Coach has been real good about getting onto me. Every now and then, you have success, and that’s how you learn how to pitch.”
Despite the victory, Texas (25-21, 6-11 Big 12) is still essentially tied with Kansas (22-20, 5-10) in the Big 12’s basement. Nine games remain on UT’s regular-season schedule. Next week, the Longhorns will travel to Corpus Christi on Tuesday before heading to Lawrence, Kan., for a three-game series.
UT’s recent slide has put its claims on both an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament and a spot in the Big 12’s postseason competition at risk. Pierce told reporters that he’d rather his players think about their next game than the big picture. The third-year coach did acknowledge that Texas’ postseason plans are still in peril.
“I’m not going to ever say a win out, but I don’t think we have a lot of room for error,” Pierce said. “First thing we’ve got to do is survive on Tuesday.”
Around the bases: West Virginia, which recorded two one-run wins over Texas in the first two games of this series, is now 10-8 in its Big 12 games. … The pitcher of record in Friday’s 3-2 loss, senior Matteo Bocchi, earned the save after throwing three innings of one-hit relief. … Tate Shaw was the only starter for Texas who didn’t record a hit Sunday, but he still scored twice. …. Texas will meet Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Whataburger Field on Tuesday evening.