On Friday night, Texas sophomore Duke Ellis won a footrace and became a footnote.
Kody Clemens hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift Texas to a 5-3 weekend-opening win over TCU. With the triumph at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Texas (36-18; 16-7) tied Oklahoma State (29-21-1; 16-7) for first place in the Big 12 standings. Both teams conclude their regular seasons on Saturday afternoon.
The splendor of Clemens’ homer overshadowed a key play by Ellis, who preceded the game-winning swing with a two-out infield single.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t really think about when you look back because he didn’t hit the home run,” Texas pitcher Andy McGuire said. “He busted his (butt) and gave us another chance. Those things shouldn’t go unnoticed but sometimes they do. We all know the importance of what he did.”
— Jeff Barker (@JeffBarker_) May 19, 2018
On Friday night, TCU relievers Sean Wymer and Augie Mihlbauer retired the first two batters of the ninth inning. Mihlbauer then threw two strikes before Ellis hit a grounder to the right of TCU first baseman Connor Wanhanen.
Wanhanen was able to dive and snag the baseball. The speedy Ellis, however, beat Wanhanen’s toss to Mihlbauer at first base.
Clemens, who said he “got the chills” once Ellis was called safe, went deep four pitches later.
“Kody was telling us in the dugout, ‘Just get me to the plate,'” Ellis said. “When I hit that ground ball, I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh crap.’ But then I was like, Kody has it. I just beat it to the bag. From there, it was in Kody’s hands and I loved it.”
Ellis ranks second among the Longhorns with his 13 stolen bases. He has now showcased that speed in two of UT’s memorable comebacks at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
In a 5-3 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 17, Ellis led off the ninth inning with an infield single. Ellis eventually tied the score on a single by teammate Masen Hibbeler. Texas outfielder Austin Todd then hit a two-run homer to win the game.
“I’ve been preached to since I was five, ground ball, fly ball, it doesn’t matter, sprint the whole time and great things will come out of it,” Ellis said. “That’s just what I’ve done my whole life.”
— Joe Cook (@josephcook89) May 2, 2018
Ellis was UT’s right fielder on Friday. The son of former major league pitcher Robert Ellis is hitting .311 with 35 runs scored this season. The Nacogdoches native, who spent last year at Panola College, has also delighted observant fans with his post-game backflips.
Ellis explained that he usually does backflips when UT wins the opening game of a Big 12 series. He’ll also flip if shortstop David Hamilton is willing to join him, which was the case when Hamilton hit a walk-off grand slam against Texas State on May 1. (Ellis was on base with a walk when Hamilton went deep against the Bobcats).
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