Longhorns rally to beat Brown in regional opener
After slow start, Texas wins 8-2 and advances to face UC Irvine!
Nick Peoples’ arm. Chais Fuller’s strength.
Say hello to both of them.
It’s OK if you haven’t noticed them before. They haven’t really been used.
The two seniors used two assets that haven’t been displayed much this season to propel Texas to an 8-2 victory over Brown on Friday in the opening round of the Round Rock Regional at Dell Diamond.
With the fourth-seeded Bears leading 2-1 in the sixth inning Fuller, one of four shortstops used by the Longhorns this season, showed some pop, sending an 0-1 pitch over the left-field wall for a two-run home run.
It was Fuller’s second home run of the season. The first came Feb. 16 against Stanford. Both homers came at Dell Diamond.
“I didn’t think it was out, so I was running full speed around the bases,” Fuller said. “I saw the left fielder run into the wall, so I thought the ball was off the wall.”
Fuller’s blast loosened up top-seeded Texas (45-15), the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“Chais Fuller changed the momentum in the game,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said.
The Longhorns will take on UC Irvine at 6 p.m. today with a spot in the regional championship game on the line. The Anteaters routed Wake Forest 13-0.
Texas needed to scratch and claw Friday in front of 9,230 fans.
“So much for being the (regional’s) top seed and getting an easy game to begin with,” Garrido said.
The Longhorns, who took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Kyle Russell’s home run, found themselves trailing 2-1 after the Bears put together five consecutive two-out hits in the fourth inning to take a 2-1 lead.
It could have been worse.
Brown had Robert Papenhouse on second and Dan Shapiro on first with two outs when Brian Kelaher singled to center field. Papenhouse tried to score on the hit.
That’s when Peoples, who doubled off a runner at first base in the second inning and almost threw out a second batter at home, showed his arm strength, throwing the ball on the fly to catcher Brett Lewis in time to get a sliding Papenhouse.
It was one of the few times all season Peoples has had a chance to make a play at the plate.
“It’s kind of weird, throughout the year I haven’t had a play throwing-wise from center field,” Peoples said. “Jordan (Danks) and Kyle (Russell) have had so many chances, and I can’t remember any.”
Peoples showed off his arm a few times Friday, skipping the cutoff man and hitting his targets on the fly.
“That’s not always a good thing,” Peoples said, “but today I really wanted to get those guys. Every run you get now is a big run. Luckily I was able to put a couple of them out tonight.”
Brown (27-20) didn’t have many scoring opportunities after the fourth inning because relievers Joseph Krebs and Randy Boone came in and shut the Bears down. They combined to pitch five scoreless innings, and they struck out seven consecutive batters at one point. The final nine outs by the Bears, who were playing in their first regional game, were strikeouts.
The Longhorns added to their lead with a run in the seventh inning, when Brown starter Jeff Dietz, who threw 131 pitches, started to wear down.
“He’s a great pitcher,” said Longhorn Travis Tucker, who was 4 for 4. “He hit his spots.”
Texas broke it open in the eighth when the Bears went to the bullpen.
Tucker singled, and Jordan Danks and Russell followed with walks. Chance Wheeless ripped a two-run double to right center before Russell scored on a wild pitch. Wheeless then scored on Russell Moldenhauer’s grounder to first base.
Some were surprised that four seniors — Peoples, Fuller, Krebs and Boone — pulled the Longhorns through their postseason opener. They shouldn’t have been.
“Experience matters,” Peoples said. “Guys who have been in situations like this before tend to be a little more comfortable than the other guys. You can see that. This team is pretty deep and everybody has experience.
“Hopefully this team can draw from the winning teams of the past.”
Senior Cody Cipriano and freshman Jeff Cusick drove in three runs apiece and starter Wes Etheridge pitched eight shutout innings to lead second-seeded UC Irvine to a 13-0 win over third seed Wake Forest Friday at The Dell Diamond to open NCAA regional action. The win gave UCI its first regional victory in the program’s Division I history as the Anteaters climbed to 41-15-1 and will face the winner of the Texas-Brown match-up Saturday at 5:00 p.m. (PT).