Senior right-handed pitcher Nathan Thornhill was dominant for eight scoreless innings and the offense struck for four runs in the first two innings to carry Texas to a 4-0 victory over Vanderbilt Friday afternoon.
The Longhorns (46-20) will square off with Vanderbilt (48-20) again Saturday at 7 p.m. in a winner-take-all matchup to advance to the championship series beginning on Monday.
Pitching was again the story for Texas, which became the first team since Oregon State in 2006 to post back-to-back shutouts in the College World Series. It was also Texas’ 10th shutout all-time in the CWS, tied with Arizona State for the most all time.
Thornhill (9-3, 1.51) was magnificent throughout his eight innings, yielding only five singles and one walk while striking out five Commodores. He never allowed a runner past second base in the game and only allowed two runners to reach in the same inning once. The win was Thornhill’s third of the postseason and lowered his ERA to 1.53 in NCAA tournament play.
The senior from Cedar Park, Texas, continued an impressive run by Longhorns starters in the CWS. Thornhill, Chad Hollingsworth and Parker French have combined to allow just three earned runs in 31 innings (0.87 ERA). As a staff, Texas has allowed just four runs in the CWS, putting up zeros on the scoreboard in 34 of 36 innings.
The Texas offense struck for two runs in each of the two first innings behind inconsistent pitching in the first and back to back triples in the second. In total, the offense managed five hits, five walks and two hit batters en route to the victory.
Third baseman Zane Gurwitz led the offense with two hits, adding a single in the sixth to his triple in the second, while second baseman Brooks Marlow reached in all four of his plate appearances with two walks, a hit by pitch and an RBI triple in the second. Designated hitter Madison Carter finished 1-for-3 with an RBI walk.
Vanderbilt starting pitcher Tyler Ferguson struggled from the get go, plunking Texas leadoff man Marlow on the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning. He then walked left fielder Ben Johnson on four straight pitches and hit Payton with a pitch to load the bases with no one out. After a strikeout, shortstop C.J Hinojosa ripped a line drive that hit the second base umpire, and by rule, the play was treated as a dead ball RBI single scoring Marlow and reloading the bases. Ferguson then got another strikeout, but issued a two-out free pass to Carter, making the score 2-0 Texas.
After Vanderbilt brought right-handed pitcher Brian Miller in, the Commodores escaped further damage as he was able to retire Clemens on strikes and leave the bases loaded, keeping the score 2-0 after one inning.
Gurwitz got the Longhorn bats going again in the second inning with a leadoff triple to the left field wall. Marlow followed with a triple of his own, this one to right field to score Gurwitz when Vanderbilt right fielder Rhett Wiseman was unable to make a diving play. Following a pop out, center fielder Mark Payton executed a perfect safety squeeze play to score Marlow, and ended up on first base when the ball flew out of the pitchers glove trying to make a diving tag.
Miller would escape from there, but the damage was done with Texas taking a 4-0 lead. He continued to settle in over the next six innings as both pitchers took turns trading zeros. The only real jam for either pitcher came in the bottom of the sixth for Miller when he stranded the bases loaded after filling them up with just one out.
Texas went to the bullpen for closer John Curtiss in the top of the ninth, who retired the side in order to finish off the victory. The Longhorn pitching staff has not allowed a runner to reach third base over their last 19 scoreless innings.