Texas beats Kent State to force Monday championship game

AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Longhorn offense maintained its momentum from its first game of the day to stay alive in the NCAA Baseball Austin Regional and force a deciding game after defeating the Kent State Golden Flashes 9-3 Sunday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Texas batters had 25 total hits between Sunday's two games to keep their season going.

Texas jumped on the board early, putting together a three-run inning in top of the first. Tant Shepherd led off the game with a walk before Mark Payton bunted him over to second. Brandon Loy then singled through the middle to score Shepherd. Erich Weiss followed with a single to right field, and a double steal put Loy and Weiss in scoring position. Paul Montalbano then plated Loy after a ground out to first base, and Jonathan Walsh doubled to the left field gap to drive in Weiss and give the Horns the early lead.

The Longhorns added another run in the second inning when Jacob Felts reached base after being hit by a pitch. A fielder's choice put Felts out at second but put Jordan Etier on first. Etier than swiped second base, and came around to score on a Shepherd RBI single that put Texas up 4-0.

Kent State got on the board in the bottom of the third inning. Derek Toadvine led off the inning with a single, and a failed pickoff attempt by Hoby Milner allowed Toadvine to race to third. Evan Campbell then sent the first pitch he saw through the right side of the infield to plate Toadvine. Jimmy Rider followed with a ground out, moving Campbell to second before Ben Klafczynski knocked a single to right field scoring Rider and cutting the Texas lead in half to 4-2.

Texas answered with another run in the top of the fourth. Shepherd drew a leadoff walk, and advanced to second on a Payton sacrifice bunt. After Shepherd stole third base, a throwing error by Kent State's pitcher put Loy on first. With runners on the corner, Weiss smashed an RBI single to right field bringing Shepherd home and giving the Horns the 5-2 lead.

Payton crossed the plate in the top of the sixth after connecting for a one-out double to right. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch and came around to score on Kent State catcher David Lyon's throwing error, extending the lead to 6-2.

Kent State was able to push one more run across in the bottom of the seventh inning. Toadvine again led off the inning with a single. Campbell then followed with a walk, and Texas reliever Nathan Thornhill struck out Rider, his last batter for the night. Andrew McKirahan then got the call from the bullpen and got Travis Shaw to fly out to center field, but it was deep enough to advance Toadvine to third. Klafczynski then singled to right, driving in Toadvine to make the score 6-3.

Texas added some insurance in the top of the ninth inning plating three more runs to close out the scoring. Montalbano reached first after a one-out single through the middle. Jonathan Walsh followed with a single to right. And for the second straight game against Kent State, Lusson sent a three-run ninth-inning shot over the right field fence to put the Horns up 9-3.

Thornhill (3-0) earned the win for the Horns after pitching 3.2 innings of relief, allowing only one run off of three hits and one walk, while striking out seven batters. Hoby Milner started the game and pitched 2.2 innings, allowing two runs off of five hits and one walk, while striking out three. McKirahan pitched 1.0 innings of scoreless relief and Kendal Carrillo notched his first save of the season, closing out the game with 1.2 perfect innings.

David Starn (9-3) was saddled with the loss after pitching 6.0 innings, allowing four earned runs off of seven hits and three walks, while striking out three. Casey Wilson pitched 3.0 innings of relief, scattering three runs off of four hits and two walks.

The Texas offense was paced by Shepherd, who went 1-for-2 with two runs, one RBI, three walks and two stolen bases. Jonathan Walsh batted 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI.

Kent State's hitting was led by Toadvine who hit 3-for-4 with two runs. Klafczynski also went 3-for-4 with two RBI.

Texas and Kent State meet again tomorrow afternoon to decide the winner of the NCAA Baseball Austin Regional, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

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