HOUSTON—The first two pitches of the game made all the difference.
Houston shortstop Blake Kelso jumped on Texas righthander Brandon Workman's first pitch of the game for a triple to right-center field.
Workman's next pitch, a curveball, bounced in the dirt and scooted away from catcher Cameron Rupp, allowing Kelso to race home for the game's first run.
It would also be the game's last run. Workman settled down in a hurry, retiring the next 14 batters he faced en route to a sparkling eight-inning outing, but Houston starter Michael Goodnight was even better. The sophomore righthander allowed just two hits and four walks while striking out nine over seven shutout innings, and Houston stunned the No. 3 Longhorns, 1-0.
Goodnight found his groove in the middle innings, retiring 13 straight Longhorns to end his outing, before handing off to relievers Ty Stuckey and Matt Creel. One area scout on hand said Goodnight held the velocity on his 89-92 mph fastball better than he has in the past, and his 81-83 slider looked better than ever. He also mixed in a slow 70-71 curve and four changeups.
"He really helped himself tonight in front of a lot of scouts," the scout said. "That was the best he's ever been by far. Usually he'll be good early and by the fourth or fifth inning he'll be down to 86-88."
Not only was Goodnight's velocity better, but so was his command.
"I was just throwing my fastball wherever I wanted to, moving it to both sides of the plate," he said. "I threw a few curveballs and sliders for strikes, but mainly moving my fastball in and out was the key."
Workman was just as impressive, striking out seven and allowing just one run on four hits and a walk over eight innings. The scout said that was the best game he'd ever seen the junior righty pitch. Workman topped out at 94 mph a few times and hit 93 repeatedly, but the key to his success was his feel for his power curveball and his ability to locate sinkers and cutters in the 86-90 range at the bottom of the zone, rather than simply trying to overpower hitters with his four-seamer.
"I was throwing cutters that move down a little bit and two-seams that move down a little bit, and they were just topping them to the infield," Workman said.
Workman kept Texas in the game right up until the ninth inning, when the Longhorns put the first two runners aboard against Creel, Houston's closer. But with runners on first and second and no out, Kevin Keyes couldn't get a bunt down on the first pitch, so Texas coach Augie Garrido had him swing away, and he wound up striking out. The next hitter, Conner Rowe, also struck out, so Garrido called for Paul Montalbano to pinch-hit. Montalbano hit a soft line drive that appeared destined for shallow center field, but the 5-foot-10 Kelso leapt as high as he could and snared it to end the game.
"I'm glad that he's not 5-foot-3," Houston coach Raynor Noble said. "He got enough of that to get the ball, and that's what mattered."
Garrido chose to credit Houston's pitching rather than indict his offense, which mustered just three hits in the game and has not produced more than eight hits in any of its last eight games.
"I personally think that it was about the pitching I think that those two pitchers pitched pretty much pitch for pitch, and they did a lot of the same things—it wasn't a one-sided blatant deal," Garrido said. "We struck out a lot, they struck out a lot. They hit balls to people that made defensive plays, we hit balls to people. And even the game ending out was a ball that had a chance to tie the game. So I felt it was a highly competitive, very well played college baseball game."
But Texas shortstop Brandon Loy wasn't nearly as forgiving in his assessment of a Texas offense that has produced just 12 hits total in its last three games.
“I think it’s about heart with this team,” he said. “We’re getting up there and we’re worried about whether we’re going to strike out or get on base. It’s about that right now and it’s not about doing what needs to be done. I think we’re a better team than they are. I don’t think right now we’re playing with a lot of heart or hard work.
“We’re going to get this turned around sooner or later. We can’t keep going out and taking teams lightly because they’re going to beat us. We’ve seen (pitchers) just like that, and we’ve hit them before.”
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