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April 6, 2013

Peters nearly perfect, Horns even series

Dillon Peters had the reputation as a big-game pitcher as a high school recruit.

The Indianapolis, Indiana product threw numerous gems against the nation's best select teams, and his mental makeup on the mound is one of the things the Longhorns love about him. Texas (17-12, 3-5) needed one of those performances against Dillon Overton and No. 13 Oklahoma (26-6, 6-2), and Peters delivered in a huge way. The left-hander took a no-hitter into the 8th inning, and his masterpiece on the mound led Texas to a 1-0 victory, which sets up a Sunday rubber match in the most important series of the year for the Horns.

"Somewhere along the line something like this has to happen consistently to give the players a sense of confidence," Augie Garrido stated after the 1-0 win. "And I think that without a doubt the losing has put stress on the team. We've had our own individual meetings about not letting that kind of thing (negative attitude) getting out of control, and that's the worst thing about losing. The guy that's sitting on the bench watches the guy that's playing in the game fail and they have a sense of well, hell, I can do as bad as he can. What's so hard about what he's doing? The best thing about winning is the environment it puts the team in."

Just like Friday night, a duel between good starting pitchers on the mound was expected, and Saturday's lefties delivered. The teams combined for just seven hits - Texas with five and OU with two - and there were just 11 baserunners all game.

Texas threatened a little bit early, and finally got the big hit it needed in the bottom of the fifth inning. Mark Gottsacker got things going with a one-out single, and Brooks Marlow followed with a walk. That allowed Ben Johnson to put Texas on the board with a line drive, RBI single to center field, and that one run was all Peters and Corey Knebel needed.

Eventually, the Sooners broke up the no-hitter in the top of the seventh inning when a fastball caught too much of the plate up and was roped to the wall in left field for a double.

"Yeah, I left it up a little," Peters said about the fastball that broke up the no-hitter. "I just trusted the fastball inside and maybe got a little too much of the plate, but it's not really a big deal. Just tried to go back out there and roll a two-ball."

That brought the Texas crowd to its feet as it tipped its cap, and Peters then responded by getting two outs before handing the ball off to Knebel with runners on first and second. Knebel surprised Peters with a hug near the mound before the left-hander jogged towards the dugout with the roar of over 6,000 in attendance surrounding him.

"Yeah, Corey does some goofy stuff but I'm okay with whatever he does as long as he shuts the door," responded Peters with a laugh when asked if that's the first time he's received a hug from a closer on the mound."

Knebel then recorded a strikeout looking with a 96 MPH fastball on the black of the outside corner to end the inning, and the All-American breezed through the ninth to secure the much-needed win for Texas.

"Lots of urgency," said Garrido about Saturday's game. "I think my summary statement would be it was the best game we've played all year as one. We've had a hard time getting connected with the dugout being on the field with their teammates and when they come from the field into the dugout… everybody was in the game from beginning to end. That's one of the things that have been a problem for us. We've been disconnected. We're looking for the right combination of leaders and today that happened. They rallied around each other and played pretty much mistake-free baseball. Again, I go back to what I said last night - pretty hard to tell the difference between the first place team and the last place team. It's mainly about attitude, I think. I think we're very close to being a very good team. How consistent can we be functioning as one competing as one? I think today's an example of that."

Key moment in the game

After watching a double smacked to the wall break up a no-hitter in the top of the eighth inning, some pitchers would crumble, or have a letdown as the moment got to them, but not Peters. Immediately after that at bat, the next batter hit a comebacker right at Peters, who jumped up, snagged the high bounce, had the presence of mind to check the runner at second, got him in a rundown, and eventually Texas tagged out the lead runner. It was a big play because it swung momentum back to Texas' favor and allowed Peters to work without a runner in scoring position with one out. It also showed the mental makeup Peters has on the mound.

"What impressed me the most was his focus and his command of his pitches and his ongoing ability to stay focused on the mitt," Garrido said about Peters' effort on the mound. "When he got down in the counts, he came right back. He used all the pitches he wanted to use and had good command of it."

Battle on the hill

Winning pitcher - Dillon Peters, Texas (2-2)
Losing pitcher - Dillon Overton, Oklahoma (6-2)
Save - Corey Knebel (7)

Peters was the definition of brilliant on the mound for the Longhorns. From the first inning until the eighth, the left-hander moved his fastball on both sides of the plate, especially inside to righties, spun a curveball effectively, and had a lot of success with his changeup, which he used heavily. At the beginning of his outing, the sophomore was sitting between 90-92 MPH and in the seventh inning he was still touching 89 consistently. Peters was efficient, located, and showed pretty strong command. He didn't tire and showed the competitiveness he's known for as he battled back from behind in the count several times. His changeup was probably his most effective pitch, and his fastball wasn't squared up often. In 7.2 innings, he gave up two outs, hit a batter, issued no walks, and struck out five.

"No," responded Peters when asked if anyone sat beside him the dugout while the no-hitter was going on. "I thought about it in the sixth. No one said anything to me. If it happened, it happened; if not, just wanted to get the win. I felt good all day and happy we pulled this one out."

Peters noted that the pitch he worked on over the summer the most was the changeup, and the ability to throw that for a strike. Also, the fans and the fastball played a huge role in the strong performance.

"There was a little extra and it helps that you have 8,000 fans yelling after every out and every pitch. It's pretty good motivation," the sophomore said. "We were mixing it early and seemed to be pretty effective and moved the ball in and out of the zone. The fastball seemed to catch them off-balance too. Just showed breaking ball or changeup every now and then. Fastballs were successful on both sides."

With a lot of scouts on hand, Knebel was dominant on the mound flashing a fastball that touched 97 with strong command of the pitch, and a low 80's hook that looked as strong as it ever has in his career. The right-hander was every bit the dominant closer he has been at his best, and then some. It was his best outing of the year and he tossed 1.1 perfect innings with two strikeouts.

Breaking down the batter's box

Star of the game - Finally, the Horns got a big hit when they needed one that proved to be the difference, and it came off the bat of Johnson, who went 1-for-4 with RBI and a strikeout. Although the freshman is chasing fastballs up at times, he's still putting the ball in play hard at a good rate, and responded well after Jonathan Gray got the best of him last night.

Frustrating day at the office - Oklahoma three-hole hitter Max White went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and looked overmatched some against Peters.

Dustin's extra bases

C.J Hinojosa now has a nine-game hitting streak, and his single up the middle Saturday afternoon was scorched. In his first at bat, he was way in front of a 3-1 changeup with runners on, and he made adjustments to take better swings in later at bats.

It was a tough game for Erich Weiss, who took somewhat defensive swings against breaking balls and changeups down in the zone and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. It's rare to see the junior fooled like that, and he wasn't picking up the ball or spin well against the left-hander.

Brooks Marlow did work a walk, but also continues to look off-balanced and defensive in the box.


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