By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay
Outfielders Eric Kennedy and Dylan Campbell made highlight-worthy defensive plays to back the pitching of lefthander Lucas Gordon on Friday as the Texas Longhorns downed the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns 4-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Coral Gables Regional.
In addition, Campbell had two hits and two RBIs and set the Big 12 record by hitting safely in his 36th straight game. Texas (39-20) advances in the regional to play Saturday night against the regional’s host team, the Miami Hurricanes (41-19).
Miami hit three home runs and downed the Maine Black Bears, 9-1, in the late game Friday night. The Hurricanes are the No. 9 seed nationally and the region’s No. 1. The Longhorns are seeded No. 2 in the region.
Locked in a scoreless defensive battle through five innings, the Cajuns and the Longhorns both started to score in the sixth. In the top half, a double by Heath Hood, followed by an RBI single from Connor Higgs, lifted the Cajuns into a 1-0 lead. Texas added two in the bottom half.
For the Longhorns, Mitchell Daly led off the inning with a solo homer to left. Later, San Antonio’s Porter Brown produced the go-ahead run with an RBI single to right. Texas was up 2-1 at that point and would not relinquish the lead. Kennedy added a two-run double in the seventh for a 4-1 spread.
Louisiana’s Carson Roccaforte hit a solo homer in the eighth to account for the final run.
The game may have turned on two defensive plays by the Longhorns. In the fourth inning, Kennedy, playing center, ranged back and slightly into right center while tracking a drive by John Taylor. He leaped at the fence and caught the would-be, three-run homer for the third out.
In the sixth, Campbell, the UT right fielder, raced toward the foul line, dove nearly parallel to the ground and snagged a drive by Roccaforte. If he hadn’t caught it, Roccaforte would have had at least a triple and the Cajuns might have been off and running toward a big inning. The remarkable play preceded the hits by Hood and Higgs.
Gordon worked seven innings and gave up one run on five hits. He improved his record to 6-1 on the season and lowered his earned run average to 2.55. Righthander Jackson Nezue (9-6) was hard-luck losing pitcher, charged with two runs in five plus innings.
Zac Vooletich ripped a two-run single in the fifth inning and Brandon Beckel pitched two innings of scoreless relief Friday, helping the Texas Tech Red Raiders defeat the Connecticut Huskies 3-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Gainesville Regional.
With the victory, the Red Raiders (40-21) will advance in the winners bracket to play Saturday against the regional host Florida Gators (45-14). Florida is the No. 2 national seed and the No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional. Texas Tech is the region’s third seed.
Vooletich, a senior from Brandeis, played as the designated hitter for the third-seeded Red Raiders. He entered the day with a .406 batting average. In the fifth inning, he came up to bat with one out and the bases loaded against UConn reliever Zach Fogell. Vooletich responded with a single up the middle to score Kevin Bazzell and Austin Green.
Beckel, a 6-foot-4 junior from Antonian, entered the game in the bottom of the seventh as a reliever for starter Mason Molina. He inherited trouble, with runners at first and second. After a wild pitch allowed the runners to move up, they both scored, one on a ground ball and another on a single.
Both runs were charged to Molina. Beckel settled down to finish two innings and keep the Red Raiders in the lead. He allowed two hits and struck out one. Molina (6-2) earned the victory and Josh Sanders, who pitched the ninth, got the save.
Walloped by the Washington Huskies on Friday, the Dallas Baptist Patriots will play an elimination game Saturday at 2 p.m. against the regional host Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The Cowboys also lost on Friday, falling 6-4 in a stunner to the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.
Oklahoma State entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 11 national seed and the No. 1 seed in the four-team region. Dallas Baptist, the regular-season champion in Conference USA, entered the weekend as the region’s No. 2 seed, followed in order by Washington and Oral Roberts.
In Friday’s first game, the Huskies surprised the Patriots, 9-5, as they jumped all over Dallas Baptist ace righthander Ryan Johnson. Michael Snyder and Johnny Tincher hit homers in a seven-run fifth inning as Washington took an 8-1 lead.
The Patriots battled back by scoring three runs in their half of the fifth and one more in the seventh. Undaunted, Snyder answered, adding an RBI double in the eighth inning for the final run.