Watching at home, if you had looked at the box score two innings into the ballgame, chances are you’d have decided to watch highlights of the Masters or “Hawaii Five-0” rather than continuing to watch the struggling Longhorns get their doors beaten in by the Baylor Bears.
Texas showed its resilience, however, as it strung together key clutch hits and defensive plays to not only erase the lead but take over the ball game in the bottom of the fifth. The Longhorns kept the momentum going throughout the rest of the game and finished with a 9-5 victory on Friday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Texas’ starting pitcher, junior Nolan Kingham, only managed to get through two innings as he struggled right out of the gate. A single and a home run jump started the early run for the Bears, who produced two runs in each of the first two innings.
“(Kingham) was really frustrated,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “After the second, he came in and said, ‘They’re not getting any more.’ And he couldn’t hit his spot and they were all over him. So we had to make a move. He’s a veteran, he’s going to have to bounce back. And we’re going to need him.”
Kingham was replaced with zero outs in the third after back-to-back Baylor batters got on base to begin the inning. Freshman reliever Matt Whelan, who was tasked with replacing Kingham, walked his first batter to load the bases. But after getting a force out at home to get the first out of the inning, something special happened.
Sophomore shortstop David Hamilton made yet another eye-popping play. This time it was a snow cone grab that he turned into a 6-4-3 double play, which could’ve easily been a single up the middle instead. This not only got the Longhorns, who trailed 4-0, out of a tough spot, but it changed the tide of the game in Texas’ favor.
“We were kind of down, then we turned that double play and things shifted,” Hamilton said. “We got the momentum and it was a good game — a good battle.”
Not only did the pitching momentum shift, the hitting came alive for the Longhorns as well. Over the next two innings, Texas scored six runs. Later in the eighth inning, it added three more. A surprise hero of the game and often unsung quality player, sophomore outfielder Duke Ellis, recorded a team and season-high four hits on the night.
Ellis, who has played right and center field and hit anywhere from the top of the lineup to the bottom, finally got to be the star of the show tonight.
“A big team win,” Ellis said. “When your starter does really well, but he didn’t tonight. He didn’t have his stuff, but it’s all good. You just got to rally behind him. And we did. And it was a big time win.”
It also seems Ellis has come up with a ‘new tradition.’ After the game he was seen in the outfield doing backflips and celebrating with his teammates. Ellis acknowledged that Pierce probably hasn’t seen the acrobatics yet, but he hopes it stays that way.
Ellis did say he’ll continue to do them after each conference win.
Texas will face Baylor in game two on Saturday at Disch-Falk Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.