Texas lose to Mississippi State 4-3 in fashion
Texas Longhorns reliever Cole Quintanilla was sensational for most of his 3.1 innings in relief, but a 1-2 hit by pitch, a stolen base and a single by defensive substitute Tanner Leggett allowed the Mississippi State Bulldogs to win in fashion in a 4-3 win at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha on Saturday to end a sensational season in Texas.
It was the Bulldogs’ only lead of the game and Quintanilla’s only loss of the season.
With box arms like Tanner Witt and Aaron Nixon unavailable or likely unavailable, Quintanilla had his longest outing of the season and threw incredibly well all the way up to the hit.
In the sixth, starter Tristan Stevens had worked hard to get the first batter out but conceded a 3-2 walk and a single to put the runners in first and third without an out. A brace on a helicopter along the third base line tied the game and kicked Stevens out of the game with runners on second and third. Put simply, Texas head coach David Pierce’s decision to leave Stevens following his struggles in the fifth inning didn’t pay off for the Longhorns. At least Pierce left Stevens in a batter for too long, a decision likely made more difficult by requests from relievers in the previous several games.
Quintanilla walked the first hitter he faced on a full count to charge the goals. As the infield played, a weak grounder allowed third baseman Cam Williams to take the strength out at home plate and Quintanilla used his low-speed pitches to secure back-to-bat strikeouts.
No legacy runner has scored on Quintanilla since April 13 against Nevada.
Against Mississippi State ace Will Bednar, who had a solid outing but didn’t quite have the same dominance as last Sunday against Texas, the Horns took the lead early.
Designated hitter Ivan Melendez opened second with a four-length goal and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt from second baseman Mitchell Daly. Dropping 0-2 in the tally, Williams pulled off a difficult feat – catching a high speedball from Bednar with a short, quick stroke, driving the ball over the right-field fence to take a 2- lead. 0.
Stevens gave up a brace early in the third inning when Kennedy failed to make a dive to the left field line. Trying to advance the runner to third place, Mississippi State missed, but Zubia was playing so far he forced an unproductive out. With so many left-handed hitters for the Bulldogs, Stevens had to rely heavily on his change. Unfortunately, Stevens couldn’t escape the starting double with a single in the middle of Tanner Allen on a high slider that didn’t have much bite.
The fourth inning went more smoothly, a 1-2-3 frame that only required six shots from Stevens, including a nasty slider in the dirt to take out Jacob Tanner on three shots.
Right fielder Douglas Hodo III grabbed a suspended slider from Bednar to lead the fifth and doubled down to center left. Faltine was unable to advance Hodo and receiver Silas Ardoin lost second place. Antico got away, however, scoring a brace to two down the center-right gap to score Hodo and extend the lead to 3-1.
So even though Bednar struck out seven to five innings, he didn’t have the same live action on his fastpitch as he did last Sunday, which gave the Longhorns better opportunities. Texas only had four hits against him, but three were for extra goals.
Stevens gave up another brace early in the fifth, prompting some action in the box for Texas relievers Quintanilla and southpaw Lucas Gordon. After getting ahead of the next hitter, Stevens made it to the change one too many times and Kellum Clark hit a soft liner on Daly at second base. The runner scored from third on a double play.
Texas had a chance to take the ninth lead against star reliever Landon Sims, but couldn’t quite run.
Melendez struck out a fastball from his elbow on a 3-2 count to start the ninth and went in favor of pinch runner Dylan Campbell, who moved up to second thanks to a sacrifice from Daly. Williams and Hodo both hit the balls well, Williams almost to the warning lane on the left and Hodo to the warning lane on the right, but neither ball had the range that Williams had achieved over early in his home run.
With the exploits of the Bulldogs, the Longhorns ended the season narrowly missing a chance to play for the national championship, but fought until the last swing of the season, proving that the margin between Texas and the top teams in the country was small.
The next MLB Draft will help determine the potential of the team next season. What this season has proven, however, particularly winning three knockout games in the World University Seriesis that Pierce has this program on track.