Rice coach Wayne Graham had one thing to say about the Texas Longhorns.
“If their pitching comes around, they are the best team in the country,” Graham said. “I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”
And that was after Texas committed three errors Tuesday.
That also was after the Longhorns were held to eight hits and six runs, both below average.
Despite all that, the ninth-ranked Longhorns beat the eighth-ranked Owls for the 10th consecutive time, winning 6-4 in front of 5,133 fans at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
“It’s because they did those things and they still won,” Graham said. “We walked a couple of batters and hit a couple of batters. But even something as little as that means you’re not going to beat a team like Texas.”
The Longhorns didn’t play the perfect game, but they always had an answer.
Rice took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, when Kyle Russell misplayed a fly ball by Rice’s Chad Lembeck with a runner on first. Russell picked up the ball and, as Lembeck raced around the bases, threw it into the Longhorns’ dugout for an unearned inside-the-park home run.
Texas responded as Travis Tucker led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and was driven home on a double by first baseman Chance Wheeless, who was 3 for 5 with two RBIs.
“I think all of us are feeling really good at the plate,” said Wheeless, who raised his batting average to .380. “We put in a lot of work, and I think all that effort is really showing up in our ability to hit the ball and our offense.”
Wheeless helped Texas (23-8) add to the lead in the sixth inning with a single up the middle that scored Nick Peoples.
It was 5-2 after six innings, but Wheeless helped the Owls (19-10) jump back into the game.
With runners on first and second and one out in the seventh, Wheeless failed to come up with a ground ball by Jess Buenger, helping Rice cut the lead to 5-4.
“That ball was really spinning on me, and I thought I came up with it,” Wheeless said. “It was just one of those things.”
Texas designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer responded in the bottom half of the inning by hitting his second home run of the season.
“One of the reasons we are able to respond so much is every practice we practice playing every inning individually,” Tucker said. “No one inning is more important than the others.”
As for the errors, Texas coach Augie Garrido isn’t too worried.
“Those things happen. It’s baseball,” Garrido said. “The players are going to make mistakes, and then they’ve got to clean them up.”
Like the pitching staff, which struggled against Kansas State on Sunday, giving up 11 runs and 17 hits.
Tuesday was different, as Austin Wood (4-0), Pat McCrory, Joseph Krebs and Randy Boone, who got his seventh save, allowed just six hits and one walk. They also didn’t give up an earned run.
“Losing is going to happen,” said Wood, who gave up three hits and two unearned runs in 5 2/3 innings. “We just have to come out here, forget about it and get re-energized. And that’s what we did.”