AUSTIN Facing one of the top teams in nation, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team fell just short dropping a 5-2 decision to the ninth-ranked Texas Longhorns at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday night.
"We took some small steps tonight as a team," said Islander head coach Scott Malone. "We just needed one or two more hits. If you had told me 24 hours ago that we would play them close I would be happy. Right now, I want it to hurt a little bit that we didn't get a few more hits to win."
Hitting against the nation's top pitching staff boasting the top ERA in Division I at 2.16, A&M-Corpus Christi (13-23) had an opportunity to jump out to an early lead with runners at first and second and one out in the first. However, Texas starter Austin Discharry (4-1) worked out of the jam with out allowing a run.
Texas (25-8) took the lead in its first at bat with a single run. With two away, Brandon Belt singled and scored on a double by Russell Moldenhauer to straight-away center.
In the second, the Longhorns added two more runs to push their lead to 3-0. Kevin Keyes singled to start the inning and stole second. After Grota hit Cameron Rupp, Brandon Loy put down a sacrifice bunt to move runners to second and third. The bases became loaded when Grota attempted to go home on a bunt attempt by Connor Rowe but did not get an out. Second baseman Travis Tucker followed with a two-run double plating both.
UT scored its final off Grota in the third for a 4-0 advantage. Tant Shephard reach on a one-out double and came home on a single by Keyes.
"We didn't get the start we needed from Justin," said Malone. "He's a better pitcher than he showed tonight."
The Islanders would get on the board in the fourth.
Stephen Flora, who led all players with three hits, led off the inning by doubling off reliever Kendal Carrillo. After advancing to third when Trey Hernandez hit a grounder off Carrillo's leg, Flora crossed the plate as Brycen Bell grounded out to third.
With a foursome of Islander reliever holding the relievers at bay, A&M-Corpus Christi tried to work its way back into the game offensively. With one away in the seventh, Justin Greiner was hit by a Stayton Thomas pitch. Pinch runner Chris Famiglietti raced to third on a single pinch hitter Jacob Perez to put runners on the corner. The rally was dealt a blow when Ernie Olivarez was picked off by Thomas on a double move for the second out and ended when Jacob Perales grounded out to short.
Flora gave the Islanders live with two outs in the eighth as he belted a solo home run to left, but Cameron Rupp answered for Texas in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to left off Brett Gibson to push the lead back to three.
Grota suffered the loss for the Islanders giving up four runs on six hits in 2-1/3 innings. Andrew Longoria, who allowed a hit in 1-2/3 innings, Jesse Maldonado and Brandon Orr combined to toss 3-2/3 innings of shutout baseball. Gibson pitched a scoreless seventh before allowing a run with one out in the eighth.
"The bullpen did a tremendous job to keep us in the game," said Malone. "Flora had a good game at the plate, but you have to have more than one player to produce to beat a team like Texas. It is all part of maturing as a team."
The series resumes on Wednesday in the second game