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Texas State ravages Rice for 9-2 home win

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Dalton Shuffield stayed on the ground for a bit, clutching his left shoulder and writhing in pain.

The junior shortstop dove for a ball he didn’t quite get to and landed awkwardly on his left arm. The ball rolled through to left field, and Rice scored their first run of Wednesday night’s game against Texas State at Bobcat Ballpark to cut the lead to 4-1 in the top of the fifth inning.

Shuffield tossed the glove and stood up, bent over with his right hand still on his shoulder and his left arm limp. The team’s trainers rushed over to assess him. After a few stretches, they nodded and jogged off the field, keeping Shuffield in the game.

The maroon and gold needed him. Shuffield batted in a run in the bottom of the frame, then added another in the sixth. By the end of the night, the junior had one of the top stat lines in the game, going 3-4 at the plate for three hits and three RBI’s, helping Texas State (6-3) claim a 9-2 victory over the Owls (0-7).

“I was worried about him for a little bit because he hurt his arm a little bit. But he just barrelled up the baseball,” head coach Steven Trout said. “I thought his timing was a lot simpler tonight. It's the same thing, he's just starting to see the ball better and trying to get out of that rut a little bit. He had an off-day on Sunday so we kind of got him refreshed a little bit and hopefully it carries that over as well.”

Shuffield had already picked up one RBI in the third inning, bunting for a single and bringing senior left fielder Will Hollis across home plate.

A dinged-up left arm didn’t slow him down, though. After the hosts escaped the top of the fifth without allowing another score, junior right fielder John Wuthrich drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Rice swapped pitchers, then walked junior third baseman Justin Thompson in the next at-bat, bringing up Shuffield.

The shortstop fell behind 0-2 in the count, then weaved another single in through the left side to send Wuthrich home.

“We were hitting low-line drives, ground balls all night, putting the ball in the ground with a couple bunts,” Shuffield said. “And their pitchers and their infielders had a tough time with that and that really helped us get going and keep on going, scoring the ball.”

Wuthrich and Shuffield teamed up for another scoring combination in the next frame. Wuthrich began the sixth inning blasting a line-drive double down the left field line. Shuffield scored him again two at-bats later, drilling an identical line drive for a double.

Shuffield went on to advance to third on a balk and tagged up on a sacrifice fly from redshirt senior catcher Tucker Redden to give the Bobcats their final run of the night, resulting in the 9-2 win.

“Lately, in the past, I was just swinging at stuff that wasn't really my sort of thing -- inside fastballs, like way inside, and then sliders down and away,” Shuffield said. “I wasn't looking for that tonight, I was looking for fastballs over the plate.”

Hollis was second on the team with two RBIs, swinging for 1-5. Wuthrich went 2-4 at the plate, including a home run to left centerfield and scored three runs. The hosts’ nine runs were the most they’ve scored in any game this season.

Senior right-handed pitcher Garrett Herrmann received the start on the mound, throwing 72 pitches in 4.0 innings, allowing two hits, two walks and a run while striking out five. Redshirt sophomore righty Matthew Nicholas received the win, taking out one batter with a pop up and striking out another at the top of the sixth inning with two runners in scoring position.

Texas State will travel to Houston (2-5) for a three-game series with the Cougars. It’ll be the team’s first road series of the 2020 season.

Shuffield said his arm felt fine after the game, although it was “real tender.” Trout said there’s no glaring issue his team needs to work on at Houston, but noted there’s a few things the Bobcats could tune up a bit.

“We didn't get a couple bunts down today but we got a couple of big push bunts down today. And so it's kind of here and there,” Trout said. “And there's always stuff you clean up baserunning-wise. I don't think this is a team that's going to steal a lot of bags, but we're constantly trying to work to take the extra base, whatever that might be. And so you're always just trying to continue to keep your guys better and keep them hungry.”

San Marcos Record

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