Easton Murrell and his teammates celebrate their 5-4 win against Texas

Senior infielder Easton Murrell celebrates with his teammates after a big win against the University of Texas at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park on March 25, 2022.

The Texas Tech baseball team defeated No. 2 Texas 5-4 in walk-off fashion at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. Senior shortstop Kurt Wilson stole home as Texas reliever Aaron Nixon was looking down to win the series-opener for Tech.

Tech head coach Tim Tadlock said while the team was ready for a potential steal situation with two outs, Wilson acted on his own during the game-winning play.

“Kurt made it happen, I have no doubt about it,” said Tadlock. “Kurt’s initial lead allowed him to do it and the baseball player that Kurt is allowed him to do it.”

The sellout crowd of 4,432 were treated to plenty of offense early in game one, as a combined three home runs were drilled in the first inning alone. Left-fielder Eric Kennedy got the Longhorns on the board on the second pitch of the game with a leadoff solo home run off junior right-handed pitcher Andrew Morris.

Morris settled in following the home run, as he shut out the Longhorns for the next five innings until he was pulled before the start of the seventh inning. Texas came into the game with the 16th most runs scored in the nation this season, according to the NCAA.

Morris, who also gave up a leadoff home run in Tech’s season-opener against Michigan, said he felt satisfied with his ability to bounce back on the mound.

“I was honestly pretty proud of myself today,” said Morris, who threw a season-high 105 pitches in game one. “I knew that I’ve been there before and I had to make a change.”

Morris ended his fifth start of the season with seven strikeouts while walking four and surrendering one earned run on six hits. 

Tech answered with two solo home runs in the bottom of the first inning. Senior left fielder Easton Murrell led off the frame with his second home run of the season, and sophomore second baseman Jace Jung joined him two batters later with an opposite field shot to give Tech a 2-1 lead.

“That was definitely a big sigh of relief for sure, so thank you,” Morris said with a smile as he nudged Murrell, who was sitting to his right. “I know the boys are always going to back me up, so it’s a great feeling.”

After freshman catcher Hudson White added a third solo home run in the bottom of the second, Texas starter Pete Hansen shut down the Red Raider offense for the remainder of his start. The sophomore retired 16 of the next 17 batters he faced to keep it a 3-1 deficit until the seventh inning.

After Morris was replaced by senior left-handed pitcher Colin Clark, the Longhorns cut the lead to one with a solo home run off first-baseman Ivan Melendez. The home run was Melendez’s eleventh of the season, according to Texas Sports. The junior ended his night 3-3 with a triple away from the cycle.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Trendan Parish came in to pitch the following inning, only to give up the lead on back-to-back home runs. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Derek Bridges replaced Parish and retired the next three batters to keep the score a one-run game.

Tech tied the game in the eighth with some timely base running. After drawing a walk to lead off the frame, White stole second then advanced to third on a wild pitch by Texas catcher Silas Ardoin. Two batters later, senior center fielder Dillon Carter scored him on an RBI fielder’s choice that brought the sold-out crowd to its feet.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Josh Sanders entered the ninth as Tech’s fifth, and ultimately final, pitcher of the day. Working around a one-out double from Melendez, Sanders retired the next two batters to send the game to the bottom frame.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Aaron Nixon came in for the Longhorns and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to send the game to extra innings. Tech came into the evening 1-0 in extra innings after defeating Dallas Baptist University 5-4 in ten innings on March 1, according to Tech Athletics.

Sanders returned for the tenth and struck out two in a 1-2-3 frame, setting the stage for a Tech walk off the following half-inning.

“The cool thing about Josh is it’s a different (pitching) angle, and it's a little bit tougher to pick up,” said Tadlock. 

After Wilson and freshman right-fielder Owen Washburn led off with a pair of walks, White advanced them a base with a sacrifice bunt. Senior third baseman Parker Kelly struck out for the second out, bringing Carter to the plate as Tech’s last hope in the inning.

On the third pitch of the at bat, Wilson caught Nixon out of position and looking down, and sole home to give Tech the 5-4 walk off victory.

Murrell, who was on-deck during the play, described the sequence from his point of view after the game.

“Well, he’s like halfway down there and then Nixon puts his head down. Kurt takes off and everybody got bright eyed. It was awesome.”

White’s solo home run in the second inning ended up being Tech’s final hit of the game, as the Red Raiders were no-hit the rest of the way by three different Texas pitchers. The Longhorns struggled with runners in scoring position, batting 0-8 in such scenarios, as their only runs came via the long ball.

Tech remained perfect at home with the win and improved to 19-4 on the season. Now 1-0 in Big 12 play, the Red Raiders return to Rip Griffin Park tomorrow at 2 p.m. for game two of the series. Junior right-handed pitcher Brandon Birdsell is the projected starter for Tech.

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