By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas squandered opportunities through the first seven innings and left an opening for UC Irvine that was eventually exploited. The Anteaters, trailing 1-0 going into the top of the eighth inning, scored three runs for a 3-1 victory over the Longhorns on Day One of the College World Series in Omaha.
UT, making its record 35th CWS appearance and first since 2011, jumped to a 1-0 lead in the second inning but left the bases loaded. The Longhorns (43-20) got a run-scoring bunt single from Shane Gurwitz but left the bases loaded.
UC Irvine (41-23) got a leadoff single from Adam Alcantara to start the eighth inning against Texas starter Nathan Thornhill. After a sacrifice moved the runner to second, Taylor Sparks tripled to left center. Sparks, who leads the nation in triples with nine, finished with three hits in four at bats. Sparks scored when Chris Rabargo singled off UT reliever John Curtiss and designated hitter Jonathan Munoz drove in an insurance run.
Taylor Sparks, who leads UC Irvine in hitting and bats leadoff, went 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple. His triple in the eighth inning drove in the tying run and he then scored the winning run.
Texas starter Nathan Thornhill pitched 7.1 innings. Through the first seven innings, he allowed four hits but was charged with the loss.
Numbers to know
Texas left 12 runners on base in the first seven innings and nine of those in scoring position.
UC Irvine was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position going into the eighth inning but had three hits with RISP in a three-run eighth inning.
Texas senior outfielder Mark Payton had his Big 12-record streak of reaching base in 101 consecutive games end. He was 0-for-4 with a sacrifice bunt. That bunt came in the first inning with runners on first and second with no outs.
Both teams entered the 2014 CWS ranked first (Texas/96) and second (UC Irvine/88) nationally in sacrifice bunts. They combined for six sacrifice bunts (UCI/4, Texas/2).
UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie, who previously coached at USC, has a 77-42 NCAA record. Texas coach Augie Garrido is now 38-21 in CWS games.
UT’s Mark Payton on the end of his streak of reaching base in 101 consecutive games: “So what? We lost. It's something I didn't pay attention to. I think a lot of other people paid a lot more attention to it than I did. We lost today, so that's the end of it.”
Payton on the Longhorns’ chances of battling back through the loser’s bracket: “I think we've actually came back stronger after our tough losses, so that's just been the attitude and the mantra of this team since day one, and I think that's what we're going to do again.
UT coach Augie Garrido, whose Cal State-Fullerton team lost its first game in the 1979 CWS but came back to win five games and the national title: “So we've got a chance, we've got the right attitude, we've got the right group of guys. Irvine played a really good game, and our hats are off to them. But I have confidence that we'll come back with the fight that Mark is talking about. … This is a strong brotherhood. I think you'll see it.”
UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie on his decision go have Chris Rabago hit away instead of trying a squeeze bunt to get the lead run home in the eighth inning: “Certainly the squeeze has been important to us. Part of the problem with the squeeze is that you don't always get a pitch to work with, and every once in a while some shrewd dirty rat like Augie (Garrido) might pitch out. It's not just an easy slam dunk decision to squeeze all the time.”
Texas will face Louisville, a 5-3 loser to Vanderbilt in Saturday’s second game, in an elimination game at 2 p.m. Monday.