Stafford, Texas hold on for victory
Stafford's seven innings ties longest outing of career
AUSTIN, Texas – Junior left-handed pitcher Sam Stafford put in one of the best efforts of his career to lead the No. 5 Texas Longhorns to a 5-3 win against the Princeton Tigers in regional action on Friday night.
Stafford (6-2) yielded just one run on two hits and three walks while striking out six over seven innings of work to earn the win. It matched the longest outing of his career, a seven-inning start at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on April 5.
The Longhorns manufactured a pair of runs without a hit in the bottom of the first inning. Tant Shepherd drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mark Payton. Brandon Loy followed with a walk and a double-steal put two runners in scoring position. Erich Weiss bounced a grounder to second base to bring Shepherd home and Loy scored on a wild pitch to give Texas the 2-0 advantage.
The Tigers cut the lead to 2-1 with a run in the top of the fifth inning. Alex Flink was issued a walk to start the inning and advanced to second when Loy failed to touch the bag on a tailor-made double play groundout by Nate Baird. With two outs, Matt Bowman deposited a 2-2 offering into the gap in left centerfield to send Flink home.
Shepherd would respond for Texas with a two-run home run in the home half of the fifth to extend the Longhorns' lead to 4-1. With one out, Jacob Felts singled to left field and scored when Shepherd launched a 2-1 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen down the left field line. Payton would again extend Texas' lead with a sac fly to right in the sixth, giving the Longhorns a 5-1 advantage.
But Princeton kept the outcome in doubt with a pair of runs in the eighth inning. Nathan Thornhill came out of the bullpen to relieve Stafford in the eighth and yielded a pinch-hit single to Alex Keller and a double down the left field line to put a pair of runners in scoring position. Hoby Milner spelled Thornhill and gave up a run-scoring single to John Mishu and an RBI fielder’s choice groundout to Mike Ford to cut the Longhorns’ lead to 5-3. Corey Knebel trotted in from the bullpen and induced an inning-ending double play to quell the rally.
Knebel gave up a pinch-hit single to Ryan Albert to start the ninth inning, but Jordan Etier made a spectacular play in shallow right centerfield, diving to stop a humpback liner off the bat of Steve Harrington. Knebel recorded the next two outs with relative ease to pick up his 17th save of the season. He allowed one hit in 1.2 scoreless innings.
Zak Hermans (5-2) was saddled with the loss, working 4.1 innings, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three.
Payton was the lone Longhorn to register multiple hits, going 2-for-2 with one double, one sacrifice bunt and an RBI. Shepherd went 1-for-2 with two walks, two runs and one stolen base to go along with the two-run home run. Loy went 1-for-1 but drew three walks and stole a base.
Bowman led the Tigers with two hits, including a double, and added one run and an RBI.
Texas (44-15) returns to action on Saturday against Kent State. Princeton faces Texas State in an elimination game on Saturday.