OMAHA, Neb. — Texas accounted for a couple of firsts at this year’s College World Series — as in first home run and first shutout.
C.J. Hinojosa broke the CWS’ long homer drought in the seventh inning, and Chad Hollingsworth and Travis Duke limited UC Irvine to four hits in the Longhorns’ 1-0 win over the Anteaters in an elimination game Wednesday night.
Hinojosa’s second homer of the season was the first at the CWS in 115 innings dating to last year.
“Four players fainted,” Texas coach Augie Garrido joked, describing his dugout’s reaction when Hinojosa’s drive left TD Ameritrade Park.
The Longhorns (45-20), who won just the second 1-0 game at the CWS since 1985, advance to a bracket final against Vanderbilt. They need to beat the Commodores (48-19) on Friday and again Saturday to reach next week’s best-of-three finals.
UC Irvine (41-25), among the last four teams picked for the 64-team NCAA tournament, went 1-2 in its surprise CWS appearance that came about after it upset No. 1 national seed Oregon State and swept Oklahoma State on the road in super regionals.
“Everybody’s just heartbroken tonight,” Irvine coach Mike Gillespie said. “The time will come when we’re objective and realize that we accomplished a lot.”
The Anteaters beat Texas 3-1 in the CWS opener last Saturday.
Hollingsworth (4-0) followed a complete-game win over Texas A&M in a regional final with another strong performance. Only two UC Irvine runners made it past first base against him, and he struck out five and walked none before he left to an ovation from fans in burnt orange. Duke got the last two outs in the 2-hour, 35-minute game for his second save of the CWS.
Hollingsworth got a boost from the biggest defensive play of the game. Irvine had a man on first in the third inning when Taylor Sparks drove a ball deep into the gap. Center fielder Mark Payton gave chase and made a running over-the-head catch that likely saved a run.
“I think everybody saw it was going to be a game of momentum, and it looked like when the ball was in the air that they were going to get the momentum,” Hollingsworth said. “You never know if the dude was going to score or not. It was kind of a turning point for me. You get out there and see your defense playing like that, you have a lot of trust in them.”
A base-running error cost the Longhorns a scoring chance in the sixth when Ben Johnson grounded into the left-field corner. Johnson’s right foot missed the bag as he rounded first on his way to third. UC Irvine appealed, and Johnson grudgingly headed back to the dugout. Payton then hit a first-pitch single that would have scored Johnson.
The next inning, Hinojosa turned on Irvine left-handed starter Evan Manarino’s 2-0 fastball and launched it into a 24-mph cross wind. The ball hit the back wall in the bullpen in left field for his fourth homer in 115 career games, and first since April 11. It was only the 23rd home run since the CWS moved to cavernous TD Ameritrade Park in 2011.
“I was just trying to see a good pitch,” Hinojosa said. “I put a good swing on it, and it flew out. I think the wind might have changed. That was kind of lucky on our side.”
Other than Hinojosa’s home run, the Longhorns did little against Manarino (4-4) in his first postseason start. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out seven in 6 1-3 innings.
“It takes a special team to get this far,” Irvine’s Connor Spencer said. “During the season, you really wouldn’t have known that we were that special team. But as soon as our name was called on that announcement show, things kind of changed and guys’ hearts started to come out.”