AUSTIN, Texas — Nathan Thornhill pitched seven solid innings, fellow senior Mark Payton hit a two-run homer and Texas moved within a victory of returning to the College World Series by beating Houston 4-2 Friday.
“This is where this program belongs,” Thornhill said. “We wanted to be a part of getting it back.”
Thornhill, a right-hander, allowed two runs and seven hits for Texas, which is trying for its record 35th appearance in the College World Series after missing out on Omaha the past two years. Payton had three hits, connecting in the first inning for his second home run in 415 at-bats.
“We just haven’t seen any go out of this park ever. So you just hold your breath,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said of Payton’s homer, just the fifth by the Longhorns in 32 home games this year. “The two seniors that decided to come back kind of led the way, didn’t they?”
Game 2 of the super regional is Saturday.
Payton and Thornhill were picked in the 16th and 24th rounds of Major League Baseball’s draft last year, but chose to return. Their reason: a desire to help the Longhorns return to the College World Series, where they haven’t been since their freshman seasons.
VANDERBILT 11, STANFORD 6
In Nashville, Tennessee, Freshman Bryan Reynolds matched a season-best four hits, and Vanderbilt used a fast start to beat Stanford in Game 1 of their super regional best-of-three series.
The Commodores (45-18) moved a win away from advancing to the College World Series. Game 2 is Saturday.
Stanford (34-25) walked five of Vanderbilt’s first nine batters as the Commodores scored the first 10 runs. The Cardinal responded scoring six straight in the fourth and fifth innings but tallied just one hit the rest of the way.
Tyler Beede, drafted 14th overall Thursday night by the San Francisco Giants, pitched three scoreless innings to start before faltering in the fourth and fifth. He struck out two, walked four and allowed five hits in 4.2 innings. Tyler Ferguson came on in relief and got the win, pitching 2.2 innings for the Commodores.
LOUISVILLE 5, KENNESAW STATE 3
In Louisville, Kentucky, Louisville freshman Nick Solak hit a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning, helping the Cardinals rally to a 5-3 win over Kennesaw State on Friday in an NCAA super regional.
The Cardinals (49-15) scored three runs in the eighth to come from behind and move within a victory of their second straight College World Series berth and third since Dan McDonnell was hired as coach in 2007.
Kyle Funkhouser allowed three runs — two earned — and three hits in seven innings for the Cardinals. He struck out seven and walked five. Kyle McGrath (2-1) got the win in relief.
The Owls (40-23), who have won 26 of their last 29 games, are one game from elimination in their first NCAA tournament appearance since transitioning from Division II in 2007. The teams play again Saturday.
Reliever James Connell (7-4) took the loss.