AUSTIN, Texas — Texas struggled to score runs in the Big 12 tournament, plating just 12 in four games, a big concern for the highly regarded Longhorns heading into NCAA play.
If the Southern Jaguars hoped to tiptoe past Texas while its offense continued to slumber, they were sorely disappointed.
The No. 2 national seed in the NCAA tournament, Texas put on an overwhelming display of power, overall hitting and stifling pitching Friday, rolling to an 11-0 win over Southern in the NCAA Austin regional opener at Disch-Falk Field.
The Jaguars (20-29) and will play at 1 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game against the loser of Friday’s second game at 6 p.m. between regional No. 2 seed Arizona State (32-20) and No. 3 Fairfield (37-3). Television plans are TBA.
The Longhorns (43-15), who await the Arizona State-Fairfield winner at 6 p.m. Saturday, pounded out 14 hits, including home runs in the first by Ivan Melendez, his 12th, and Cam Williams in the eighth, his 10th. Every Texas starter had a hit, scored a run or both, leading to a rough, two-inning stay for Southern starter Jacob Snyder (1-3). He gave up six runs before turning the mound over to Wilhelm Allen, a bright spot for the Jaguars with four innings of one-run middle relief.
Southern interim coach Chris Crenshaw explained that he started Snyder over Allen because Disch-Falk Field “is a big ballpark, and Snyder’s a fly-ball pitcher. He needed the corners (of the strike zone) and didn’t get them.
“We put ourselves in some bad situations: falling behind hitters, walking hitters, hit by pitches. I never thought Snyder would go out and be like that. I thought he’d give us a better shot.”
The Jaguars did have a shot to make the Longhorns nervous in the top of the second inning when the game was still within reach.
Catcher Taj Porter led off with a single down the right field line and advanced as right fielder Tremaine Spears reached on an error by Texas shortstop Trey Faltine, one of two he made Friday. Porter tried to advance as Faltine’s throw bounded away from second base, but center fielder Mike Antico intercepted the ball and pegged a throw to third to easily get Porter out. AJ Walter and Zavier Moore then struck out to end the Southern threat before Texas struck for four runs in the bottom of the inning, essentially putting the game out of reach.
“That’s the way we play,” first baseman O’Neill Burgos said of the aggressive baserunning move by Porter. “Things just didn’t go out way.
“We had a 50-50 chance when Taj ran on the error,” Moore said. “One inch on or off the bag he’s safe and it’s a different ballgame. That changed the whole game. But we played aggressive like we did all year. No one is mad about that.”
The early 6-0 lead would be more than enough for Texas starter Tristan Stevens (10-3). He threw seven efficient shutout innings, scattering four hits while striking out six with no walks. Palmer Wenzel and Jared Southard each tacked on an inning of scoreless relief to complete the shutout.
“The Big 12 tournament didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” Stevens said, “but that’s in the past. This game gets the ball rolling for us.
“We know what our offense is capable of. We got in a little slump last weekend, so it was nice not to just see the hits but for us to get the bunts down. We have ability to put pressure on the other team’s defense.”
Burgos, who belted the game-winning home run for Southern in the SWAC tournament final against Jackson State, had a pair of hits and Moore had a double for the Jaguars. But Southern managed just four hits overall.
The Jaguars won six games in five days to capture the SWAC tournament, a task not dissimilar to the one now facing them here in Austin. Crenshaw expressed confidence that his players could draw on that experience to help them now.
“I believe we can compete tomorrow and give ourselves a chance to win the game,” said Crenshaw, who confirmed he will start senior left-hander John Guienze (1-5, 6.80 ERA) Saturday.
Moore said Southern has to learn what lessons it can from such a lopsided defeat.
“They took advantage of our mistakes from the jump,” he said. “We put a lot of hard balls in play. We just have to cut down on the mistakes tomorrow.”
If not, there may be no more tomorrows for Southern.
The phrase “That’s baseball” was never more true than it was for Southern when it caught fire to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference tour…