Pitcher Parker French and the bullpen combined for Texas' 11th shutout of the season, while the offense rallied for all four of its runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to claim UT's record 35th trip to Omaha.
The two-game sweep over Houston puts the Longhorns back in the College World Series for the first time since 2011, and the eighth time since 2000, which leads the nation. Four teams are tied for second with six appearances. Texas will play the winner of the Oklahoma State-UC Irvine series next weekend in their opening game.
The UT offense scored all of its runs in the fourth inning, once again led by shortstop C.J Hinojosa, who had two hits and two RBI, including the two-run single that opened the scoring. Hinojosa is hitting .476 (10-for-21) so far in NCAA play, with two doubles and six RBI.
Six other Longhorns added a hit, including center fielder Mark Payton who singled in the first inning to extend his record reached-base streak to 101 straight games. Payton would also walk twice and score a run in the game. Left fielder Ben Johnson had the lone extra base hit of the game, a double to lead off the fourth inning that jump started the offense.
French was drafted in the MLB Draft today by the Detroit Tigers, but that news took a back seat to his pitching performance. He worked six scoreless innings on 87 pitches, allowing five hits, two walks and two hit batters, however he was able to work his way out of every jam to earn to his sixth win of the season.
Left-hander Travis Duke, righty Morgan Cooper, and right-hander John Curtiss came on in relief of French, combining for three more scoreless innings to finish the shutout. They allowed five hits and one walk over the three innings. The defense also came up huge this weekend, turning five double plays in two games.
The two squads took turns trading zeros for the first three-and-a-half frames with both starters looking solid. However, Texas broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring all four of its runs.
Johnson led off the bottom of the fourth with a double to deep left that the Houston left fielder couldn't quite reel in near the warning track. Payton then walked, and catcher Tres Barrera laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line that he legged out to reach on an infield single, loading the bases. After designated hitter Madison Carter hit into a fielder's choice that put out Johnson at home, Hinojosa delivered a two-strike, two-RBI single into right center field, putting runners on first and third. Hinojosa then stole second before right fielder Collin Shaw delivered a two-strike sac fly to right, scoring Carter and advancing Hinojosa to third. First baseman Kacy Clemens followed by working a full count, before roping a single to center field driving in Hinojosa to make the score 4-0.
Third baseman Zane Gurwitz then added a two-strike infield single in the hole between short and third, the fourth two-strike hit of the inning, chasing Cougars starter Aaron Garza from the game. Jared Robinson came in to replace Garza and retired second baseman Brooks Marlow on a called third strike to end the inning, but the damage had already been done.
Houston threatened in the top of fifth, loading the bases with one out for their three-hole hitter, shortstop Frankie Ratcliff. However, French bore down, getting Ratcliff to hit into a fielder's choice where Clemens threw home to get the force out. French then retired left fielder Michael Pyeatt on a soft ground ball to second to escape the jam. Despite loading the bases, French only threw nine pitches in the inning.
French escape a one-out, two-on base jam in the sixth by inducing back-to-back fly outs to Payton in center. The bullpen took over and finished the game, sending the Longhorns back to Omaha. Texas pitchers have a combined 1.15 ERA in six NCAA Tournament games.