The No. 9 seed Texas Longhorns forced a third game in the Greenville Super Regional by mounting a remarkable comeback against the No. 8 seed East Carolina Pirates at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Saturday, winning in walk-off fashion as right fielder Dylan Campbell slashed an 1-2 fastball into the right-field corner with the bases loaded and two outs.
Texas trailed 6-2 after a five-run fifth inning by East Carolina and trailed 7-2 after the top half of the seventh inning. With only nine outs remaining, the dormant bats finally woke up for the Longhorns as center fielder Douglas Hodo III hit a two-run home run. In the eighth, Texas took the lead after a three-run home run by third baseman Skyler Messinger and a solo shot by Campbell.
For the second straight game, the Longhorns took the lead in the first inning. Left fielder Eric Kennedy singled to left field with one out, stole second after first baseman Ivan Melendez popped out, then scored on a single by second baseman Murphy Stehly. Another stolen base put Stehly in scoring position, which he took advantage of on a throwing error by the East Carolina third baseman.
Texas left-hander Lucas Gordon worked around a single, a throwing error, and a walk in the first inning and didn’t allow a run until a solo home run by East Carolina center fielder Bryson Worrell in the fourth inning. Gordon’s command faltered some after the home run, as he walked two batters, but was able to get a strikeout the end the frame.
After two bad strike calls resulted in a stranded runner in the fourth inning for the Horns, Gordon got in trouble again in the fifth, allowing two singles. Then the Pirates loaded the bases when Messinger made only his fourth error of the season. Worrell came through again for East Carolina, scoring two runs on a double down the left-field line and chasing Gordon from the game in favor of right-hander Marcus Olivarez.
On the third pitch to right fielder Jacob Jenkins-Cowart, the East Carolina standout broke the game open with a three-run home run against Olivarez, who had only allowed one run all season entering the game.
Olivarez also walked a batter in the inning, but was able to avoid any further damage.
In the two innings after the Pirates took the lead, the Longhorns weren’t able to get anything going at the plate as all six batters were retired in order.
East Carolina was still dangerous, though, greeting left-hander Luke Harrison in the seventh inning with consecutive 0-2 singles to put runners on first and third before getting a foulout and departing as right-hander Tristan Stevens entered the game. On a wild pitch, Jenkins-Cowart was ruled safe at home on review after he was initially called out, and the runner at first advanced to second. After allowing a walk, Stevens was pulled and right-hander Andre Duplantier got the call from the bullpen. Duplantier kept the score 7-2 by getting a double play on his first pitch.
The Horns were able to mount a two-out rally in the seventh. Shortstop Trey Faltine got his first hit of the super regionals with a double off the wall in right field before Hodo managed to clear the wall in his at bat for a two-run home run.
Kennedy kept the rally going with a single, but Melendez couldn’t maintain it as right-hander Trey Lesavage got a pitch in on his hands, producing a groundout to shortstop.
But the overall mountain at the plate did carry over into the eighth inning. Stehly singled on the first pitch he saw and designated hitter Austin Todd hit a ball off the pitcher that squirted into right field, allowing Stehly to advance to third. On a 2-2 fastball, Messinger hit the second opposite-field home run of the game, a three-run shot to tie it.
The home run prompted a call to the bullpen for East Carolina’s star reliever Carter Spivey, who allowed three earned runs in 1.2 innings on Friday. Texas continued to see Spivey well as right fielder Dylan Campbell hit his own opposite-field home run to give the Longhorns the lead again.
Hodo singled off the third baseman’s glove to extend the inning, chasing Spivey from the game as Zach Agnos moved from shortstop to the mound, but Agnos was able to retire the side when Kennedy hit a ball up the middle right into the East Carolina shift.
Looking for the save, Dupantier remained in the game, getting a flyout to center field to lead off the inning and striking out the next batter, but then allowing a game-tying home run by second baseman Jacob Starling on a grooved 2-1 fastball. A strikeout allowed Texas a chance for the walk-off win and the Longhorns took advantage.
Melendez singled into center field to lead off, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mitchell Daly, a defensive replacement for Stehly in the ninth inning. Todd drew an intentional walk on a 3-0 count to put runners on first and second, but Messinger couldn’t come through again popping out to the catcher in foul territory.
And now Sunday’s game will determine which team advances to the College World Series to face the winner of the Knoxville Super Regional with first pitch set for 3 p.m. Central on ESPN2.
Breaking T launches six NIL x Texas co-licensed shirts for the baseball and softball teams.
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