HOUSTON — The University of Texas could muster only one extra-base hit Monday night against Texas A&M in the championship game of the Houston regional at Reckling Park.
Instead of swinging for the fences, the Longhorns advanced to the college baseball super regionals by taking it one base at a time.
Seven singles, six walks, three Aggies errors and one hit batsmen added up to a 4-1 Texas win and a ticket to play the winner of the Baton Rouge regional between LSU and Houston.
“I think this tournament is going to help us a lot, because we showed our nerves, but we settled down as the game went on played a really well,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said.
While the Longhorns hitters kept A&M’s fielders busy, starting pitcher Chad Hollingsworth shut down the Aggies bats.
The sophomore right-hander allowed only two hits and an unearned run in a complete game, 128-pitch victory. He struck out three Aggies, walking five in his first start of the season.
“I wanted it, and I couldn’t let everyone down,” Hollingsworth said. “Once I started throwing strikes, I found my pitches, and there really was no looking back.
“I knew our pen was pretty beat up, but I felt in my heart I could go out there and get it done.”
After allowing an unearned run the first inning, Hollingsworth retired 16 of 20 batters, allowing just two infield singles.
Starting the ninth inning having thrown 107 pitches, Hollingsworth walked the leadoff hitter before getting two groundouts and a flyout to end the game.
He finished with a career-high 128 pitches as the Longhorns poured out of the home dugout to celebrate the regional title.
Although it was his first start, Hollingsworth entered the game with a 1.69 earned run average in 23 relief appearances.
After trailing 1-0 early, Texas broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning when Madison Carter scored on an error by A&M third baseman Logan Nottebrok.
It was one of three errors the Aggies infield committed.
C.J. Hinojosa got the Longhorns only extra-base hit in the seventh inning, doubling home Ryne Birk for a 3-1 lead. Collin Shaw followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.
The Aggies (36-26) scored their lone run in the first inning. Blake Allemand walked to lead off the game and went to third on a Ryne Birk bunt single and a Texas error. Cole Lankford’s sacrifice fly to center gave the Aggies a 1-0 lead.
Another Texas error and a walk loaded the bases, and Hollingsworth threw three straight balls to Patrick McLendon. After a strike down the middle, Hollingsworth got McLendon to fly out to right to limit the first-inning damage.
The Longhorns (41-19) got the run right back in the bottom of the first when Tres Barrera singled in Brooks Marlow, who reached on an error and was sacrificed to second.
Both starting pitchers settled in after the first inning until the Longhorns took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning with a little assistance from the Aggies defense.
Carter singled to lead off the inning, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and a shortstop error, then scored on Nottebrok’s miscue to give Texas a 2-1 lead.
After four innings, three fourths of the Aggies infield had committed an error.
“The errors played a part, and we gave them some extra base runners with the walks,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “But I’m proud of our guys. They continued to punch, and they stayed in the fight, and I’m extremely proud of the journey we took.”
The Longhorns threatened to break the game open at several points, including in the fifth after back to back walks and a stolen base put runners at the corners with one out.
With Ray struggling to throw strikes, the Aggies were bailed out with a double play to end the inning.
After the Longhorns put up two more in the seventh, it left the Aggies trailing by three runs with Hollingsworth still going strong.
Hollingsworth and Mark Payton shared the co-outstanding players on the Houston regional all-tournament team.
With the Houston regional starting one hour before the Baton Rouge regional, the Longhorns were unsure of who their opponent would be in the super regional.
“We are not done yet,” Payton said. “We need to get back to practice and prepare to play whoever it is we are going to play.”
The last time the Longhorns faced LSU was in the 2009 College World Series. The Tigers won two out of three against Texas, with the final victory giving LSU its sixth CWS title.