Longhorns stay alive with second straight shutout

Texas runner Mark Payton is safe at first base after Vanderbilt pitcher Brian Miller stumbled and dropped the ball following the tag. (AP Photo/Eric Francis)

Texas runner Mark Payton is safe at first base after Vanderbilt pitcher Brian Miller stumbled and dropped the ball following the tag. (AP Photo/Eric Francis)

By Eric Olson

Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. – Augie Garrido’s Texas baseball teams are always built on pitching and defense, and the Longhorns sure are showing it at the College World Series.

Nathan Thornhill and John Curtiss combined for Texas’ second straight shutout, and the Longhorns forced a second-bracket final against Vanderbilt with a 4-0 victory Friday.

The Longhorns (46-20) and Commodores (48-20) will meet again today, with the winner advancing to the best-of-three finals against Virginia or Ole Miss.

For the second game in a row, Texas pitchers didn’t allow a runner past second base. The Longhorns have held opponents scoreless 19 straight innings and have given up four runs in their four games in Omaha.

Thornhill left after the eighth inning, having thrown 131 pitches on an 88-degree afternoon against a Vanderbilt team that was set on going deep into counts.

“It was a dominating performance,” Garrido said. “I do think they were trying to run his pitch count up because of the heat to get him out of the game. He has the kind of command where he can capitalize on something like that.”

Thornhill said he didn’t let the Commodores’ approach bother him.

“I wasn’t too surprised,” he said. “They’re probably looking for their pitch because they are good hitters, and if they’re going to take, I’m going to try to get ahead and throw my pitches, and that’s what happened today.”

Texas scored twice in each of the first two innings to lead 4-0, with a couple of the runs crossing the plate as a result of quirky plays. Thornhill took it from there, with Curtis pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The Longhorns are batting just .198 at the CWS, but with the pitching staff operating as it is, no one in burnt orange is worried.

Chad Hollingsworth and Travis Duke held UC Irvine scoreless on four hits Wednesday, and Thornhill (9-3) allowed only six singles while leading Texas to its 13th shutout of the season.

Parker French (7-5), who gave up one run in 71⁄3 innings against Louisville on Monday, will go to the mound against Vanderbilt today. The Commodores will start Carson Fulmer (7-1), who got the win in their CWS opener against Louisville.

Friday’s Vanderbilt starter, Tyler Ferguson (8-4), lasted just two-thirds of an inning Friday.

“Just couldn’t handle the moment,” Commodores coach Tim Corbin said. “That’s too bad because the kid deserves better. He works very hard, and he’s got great stuff, and you didn’t see Tyler Ferguson today, unfortunately.”

Reliever Brian Miller went the rest of the way, holding Texas to four hits and striking out eight.

The Commodores were without third baseman Xavier Turner, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the rest of the CWS for an unspecified rules violation. Tyler Campbell started in Turner’s place.

Turner was batting .333 with three stolen bases in the Commodores’ first two CWS games. He started 63 of 64 games and was batting .284.

Vanderbilt said its baseball program and athletic department are in NCAA compliance. The school said it would have no further comment.

Strange scoring

The Longhorns scored in some unusual ways to lead early.

Texas’ first run came home when C.J. Hinojosa sent a low line drive up the middle with bases loaded. Second baseman Dansby Swanson was there to start a possible double play, but umpire Mark Uyl couldn’t dodge the ball. The ball struck Uyl, meaning the play was dead immediately, and runners by rule were allowed to advance one base. That allowed Brooks Marlow to score from third.

Marlow tripled in a run in the second and scored when Miller, after tagging Mark Payton on a close play at first, dropped the ball as he rolled on his back after a near collision. First-base umpire Jeff Head initially called Payton out, then reversed himself, and the call stood after an umpire conference.

“We did a good job of stopping them for the most part,” Corbin said. “I would say they are dangerous. You know, we helped them a little bit. I don’t say that in a negative way. You don’t want to be playing uphill early in the game like we did.”