The Texas Longhorns find themselves within one game of making their 27th trip to the College World Series after a 4-2 victory over Houston in the first game of their best two-of-three NCAA Super Regionals series Friday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin.
Senior outfielder Mark Payton wasted little time in extending his Big 12-record consecutive games on-base streak to 100 games with a home run to right field in the first inning, scoring two runs for a quick 2-0 Longhorn lead. Texas added single runs in the third and fourth innings, which is all the Horns would need to put the game away with starter Nathan Thornhill on the mound.
Payton added two more hits in the game to go three-for-five and contribute almost 25 percent of Texas’ 11 hits for the game. Every Texas starter reached base at least once.
Thornhill went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits to record his eighth win of the season against two losses. John Curtis came in in the eighth inning and retired six of the seven batters he face to close out the game for the Longhorns to pick up the save. Thornhill lowered his ERA to 1.57, third best in the Big 1`2 this season.
Asked in his postgame press conference how he felt about his team’s position with one of the two necessary Super Regional win under their belt, Texas head coach Augie Garrido said: “Yeah, but anything can happen. What I told the players was don’t start talking about the future, stay focused on the fundamentals…You can get so excited about something you cannot control, like going to Omaha, that you forget about fundamentals and lose to nerves and your emotions. That as my message to the team,” Garrido said.
The 20th-ranked Longhorns and 15th-ranked Cougars will meet again on Saturday for Game 2 of their series. A Texas win will win the series and send the Longhorns on their way to Omaha as one of the eight teams in the 2014 College World Series.
With the win by Texas, the Big 12 is 14-5 this season in NCAA postseason baseball competition.
The Big 12 is 1-1 in Super Regionals action, with Texas winning its opening game, while Oklahoma State fell to UC Irvine in that series opener on Friday night.
Two other Big 12 schools, TCU and Texas Tech, player their Super Regionals opener on Saturday. Both Big 12 teams are serving as host sites, with TCU entertaining Pepperdine and Texas Tech taking on College of Charleston in the Red Raiders’ first-ever NCAA Super Regionals appearance.