Two games into the Big 12 season, Texas has played two extra innings contests. They took Game One Friday from the visiting 'Eers, but Saturday it was WVU's turn for late-game heroics. It wasn't a great start by Josh Sawyer but he was also hurt by a costly error early on when, already down 3-0 in the top of the second, Collin Shaw let a single roll under his glove in right field to allow two more runs to score.
Sawyer was pulled after starting the third with a walk, and true freshman Connor Mayes proceeded to make a strong case for a look in the weekend rotation. He gave up an RBI single in the third (the runner was attributed to Sawyer due to the walk), but ended up surrendering no runs of his own while striking out 10 over 6.2 innings. At one point, he set down 15 hitters in a row.
Mayes' performance gave the offense space to spring to life, which it did in scoring six unanswered after WVU had done the same--and turnabout was fair play as two of Texas' runs were unearned thanks to WVU throwing errors. Shaw also ook back one of the runs he had allowed with his first career home run.
There's a lot of randomness in late-game baseball, though, and the way Texas went about losing this one particularly stings. First West Virginia got two runners on in the top of the tenth on infield hits, which by their nature happen only due to the blind luck of ball placement. But reliever Ty Culbreth battled, working a 1-2 count to KC Huth with the bases loaded and two outs. The next three pitches, though, say Culbreth miss the strike zone three times in a row to surrender what proved to be the game winning run.
The baseball gods got particularly sadistic by adding insult to injury in the bottom of the frame. Texas got the tying run on with one away, in the form of Bret Boswell on first base. Connor Macalla mashed a liner to the right side, which happened to be hit right at the WVU second baseman for an easy double play, as Boswell had no chance to get back to the bag. Again: the randomness of ball placement.
Although it's only the third conference game, today is arguably a crucial rubber game for Texas. West Virginia is not one o the top teams in the Big 12, so starting off the conference season by losing a series to them at home would be sub-optimal. That's the kind of thing that can break a tie against the Longhorns when hosting and national seed conversations come around. More directly, with only nine baseball-playing schools in the Big 12, there are only 24 conference games so you absolutely have to beat lesser opponents on your home field if you want to be a contender. It doesn't matter if it's the first series or the last.
Today's game is NOT on Longhorn Network, but will instead air on Fox Sports 1. First pitch is at 12:30, and Chad Hollingsworth takes the hill for Texas against sophomore Chad Donato and his 1.44 ERA. This is your open thread. Hook 'em!