As Augie Garrido said in his postgame comments, the pressure of being undefeated is no longer a problem for the Longhorns. The Lobos used a trio of three-hit games from 1B Justin Howard, DH Ryan Honeycutt and CF Max Willett to trump Texas’ ace pitching staff in the final inning on Saturday afternoon.
New Mexico got things started with a two-run home run off the bat of Honeycutt in the first frame off Longhorn starter Brandon Workman after a two-out walk to C Rafael Neda.
Texas wouldn’t stay behind long. 2B Jordan Etier scored the home team’s first run after New Mexico 2B Ben Woodchick dropped a supposed double play ball from SS Daniel Gonzalez. CF Connor Rowe made the Lobos pay on the next at bat, hitting his second double in as many games, and scoring C Cameron Rupp from second. Texas would add another pair of runs in the first with a Kevin Lusson single.
Neda cut the Longhorn lead to 5-3 with an RBI groundout following a failed pickoff attempt by Rupp that sent Howard to third base after his leadoff single.
Willett would lead off the sixth inning with a triple, and score on RF Kenny Held’s groundout, cutting the lead to one.
Texas called on a pair of relievers before handing off the ball to closer Chance Ruffin in the eighth inning for a save attempt. Ruffin made quick work of the bottom of the New Mexico order, striking out two batters in the process.
Ruffin’s new role has allowed him to showcase his fastball and slider, often hitting as high as 94 on the radar gun and leaving batters to play catch-up on many pitches. His slider was excellent, but Justin Howard’s swing in the ninth was better.
Following Ruffin’s third strikeout in four batters, Howard managed to get around on a pitch and send it to the busses in right field, tying the game for the Lobos and leaving Longhorn fans in shock. Neda and Honeycutt followed Howard’s solo blast with singles before Ruffin was unable to field a grounder back to the mound, loading the bases with only one out. Willett stepped up and drove a ball down the left field line for the game-winning sacrifice fly.
New Mexico reliever Austin House forced DH Russell Moldenhauer to foul out before striking out LF Cohl Walla and Rowe to end the game and complete the upset.
The game came down to a battle of opposing forces. Yesterday, Texas’ incredible pitching bested New Mexico’s great hitting, but today was just the opposite, as the Lobos used their bats and never gave up on the game.
Coach Garrido was visibly upset after the game. His anger wasn’t because of the final score, but because he felt that his team became less competitive during the game, and New Mexico earned their victory with consistency and competitiveness throughout the game.
Ruffin was saddled with the loss after blowing his first save attempt of the year, while House was the victor for New Mexico.
Texas and New Mexico will finish their weekend series tomorrow at 1 p.m.