For the first time in what feels like forever, I was able to grace the University of Texas press box with my presence. Since work has taken me away from a regular attendance at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the Longhorns have won 18 of 20 games, including an incredible 16 game winning streak. The Longhorns streak has been highlighted not by strong pitching, a trait that existed prior to the streak, but rather the emergence of offense, scoring less than five runs only four times. Never the less, the team from Austin looked like they were gearing up for a run at not just Omaha, but the first place finish that narrowly eluded them last season.
Texas put their usual Tuesday starter, RHP Sam Stafford, on the mound to face the Roadrunners, who countered with righty D.D. Towler.
The first inning started off with both clubs putting a pair of runners on base, but neither pitcher allowed a runner to score, keeping everything knotted at nothing heading into the second inning.
Stafford saw his leash yanked after allowing a leadoff walk and hitting the following batter. Freshman RHP Keifer Nuncio replaced the sophomore, and promptly loaded the bases before UTSA C Jeff Taliaferro came a few feet shy of his seventh home run of the season. The sacrifice fly from Taliaferro gave the Roadrunners an early 1-0 advantage before Nuncio induced an inning-ending double play.
The Longhorns didn’t waste any time getting on the board. Sophomore 3B Kevin Lusson led the inning off with a double before scoring on a one-out balk from Towler. Three batters later, Texas freshman CF Cohl Walla collected his fifth home run of the season, and put Texas ahead at 3-1.
Texas had a chance to increase their lead in the third inning after 1B Tant Shepherd advanced to third base on an error by Towler, but an attempt to score on a shallow Kevin Keyes fly ball to right field came up just short, giving UTSA an inning-ending double play of their own.
The Longhorns would break out their good, old-fashioned Augie Ball tactics to add another pair of runs in the fourth. After Kevin Lusson led off the inning with a walk, a Jonathan Walsh sacrifice and stolen base set up Connor Rowe’s perfect safety squeeze, increasing the lead to 4-1, and putting Rowe on first. After an error by UTSA 1B Casey Selsor on a pickoff attempt gave Texas another chance to score. Etier was unable to reach base like Rowe, but his perfect execution allowed another run for the home team. Towler would finally be chased off the mound by a Cohl Walla double, giving way to reliever Ryan Proudfoot. Another UTSA error put runners on the corner, but Taliaferro threw out SS Brandon Loy on his stolen base attempt to finally end the inning.
The Roadrunners would not bow down to America’s top team. With two outs in the eighth, UTSA LF Ryan Rummel sent a Stayton Thomas pitch off the right field wall for an RBI double, scoring CF Daniel Rockett. 3B Ryan Dalton followed with a single to the pitcher, which Thomas threw too close to the runner, allowing Rummel to score from second and the Roadrunners to cut the lead to a pair of runs. Coach Garrido decided it was time to use his sixth pitcher of the game when he brought in ace closer Chance Ruffin to end the threat. Ruffin allowed a single to fellow Top 100 Honoree Ryan Hutson before striking out Casey Selsor to end the threat.
The Longhorns once again displayed their new found hitting ability. Kevin Keyes drew a one out walk in the next inning before pinch runner Kyle Lusson stole second and scored on a bloop single by his younger brother, Kevin Lusson, putting the Longhorns up 6-3.
UTSA still wasn’t done. Down to their final out, with runners on the corners, SS Lance Brown singled to CF to score RF Tyler Carpenter, only the seventh run Ruffin has allowed this season. Undeterred, the All-American candidate struck out Ryan Rummel to seal the 17th consecutive victory for Texas.
Kendal Carrillo (3-0) picked up the win, while D.D. Towler (1-5) was on the losing end. Ruffin earned save number ten in 25 appearances.
The play of the night belonged not to a hit or an amazing defensive play, but rather a routine fly ball. With one out in the Longhorn eighth, pitcher Chance Ruffin was forced to bat after Texas lost their DH spot because of a defensive switch. Ruffin, in his first career at bat, sent the second pitch from Ryan Proudfoot to deep center field. CF Rockett had no trouble with the catch, but the Texas fans were impressed, as was Ruffin, who received a curtain call, an honor typically reserved for owners of a home run in Austin.
While Ruffin enjoyed his long fly ball, he set a bit of Longhorn history with his mound performance. With the save credited to him, Ruffin became the first Longhorn to record a 10-win season and a 10-save season in a career.