After Herculean efforts by Dallas Baptist to create playable field conditions after Friday morning storms, the Oregon State Beavers held off the Texas Longhorns on Friday for a seesaw 5-4 victory in the Dallas Regional's opening contest at a soggy Horner Park.
The game didn't feature a single extra-base hit through seven innings thanks to a fantastic play by center fielder Zane Gurwitz in the seventh when he robbed Oregon State of a home run with a leaping grab:
That changed in the top of the eighth, however, as second baseman Brooks Marlow crushed a two-run home run over the right-field fence to tie the game at 4-4:
Unfortunately, a leadoff walk from reliever Kirby Bellow ended up scoring on an RBI double by Oregon State in the bottom of the eighth, the first Beavers extra-base hit of the game. Jake McKenzie gave up the double, but limited the damage with two key outs, with the inning-ending strikeout coming with the bases loaded, providing the Horns one more opportunity.
In a major swing, Texas wasn't able to score the leadoff runner in the ninth. Left fielder Ben Johnson was swinging after failing to get his sacrifice bunt down and it resulted in a scorched ball to center field that was misplayed initially before the Oregon State defender made a diving catch. Shortstop CJ Hinojosa then hit into a double play and ended the game for the Horns as the comeback ultimately fell short.
The first part of the game featured an epic pitchers' duel between Oregon State ace Andrew Moore and resident Texas bulldog Parker French. Working with a wide plate that benefited his pinpoint control, Moore started out with five strikeouts through the first three innings as the Longhorns struggled to get anything going offensively.
Neither team even managed to put many balls into the outfield early, with both teams playing deep as a result of poor footing on a field that looked more like an aquarium during the morning hours with some fish in residence.
But French got into trouble in the third inning, allowing two base hits -- neither struck with much force -- before inducing an inning-ending groundout that he handled himself after falling behind 3-0 in the count.
Meanwhile, the Longhorns didn't get a base hit until the 11th hitter of the game in the fourth inning, when designated hitter Joe Baker extended his hitting streak to nine games by taking advantage of a mistake by Moore up in the zone for a soft liner into right-center field. Moore opted to field a bunt spinning foul to allow the leadoff baserunner to advance, providing the first runner in scoring position for Texas.
It was the type of situation that the Longhorns had to capitalize upon with Moore pitching so well. Catcher Tres Barrera did exactly that, shortening up his swing and sending a line drive into center field to score Baker and take a critical 1-0 lead. It was merely another clutch hit for the Eagle Pass native after the game-winner on Thursday and early two-run home run last Saturday in the Big 12 Championship.
About that lead though? In the last 14 games entering Friday, the Horns had won all eight when scoring first and lost all six when failing to do so. It just wasn't enough on this particular day.
Texas continued to threaten in the inning, as right fielder Collin Shaw had a base hit and second baseman Brooks Marlow took a four-pitch walk as Moore's control faltered, especially with his breaking ball. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, first baseman Kacy Clemens was unable to capitalize with the bases loaded. It was his 48th at bat this season without producing an RBI or extra-base hit.
In the bottom of the inning, the Beavers finally broke through. French hit a batter, gave up a steal, then three consecutive singles gave Oregon State a 2-1 lead. To save further damage, the Texas pitcher finally retired the side courtesy of the second double-play turned behind him, this one of the 6-4-3 variety.
French looked like he was cruising in the fifth inning, getting two quick outs, but he gave up three consecutive singles once again. The first two were just out of reach of Texas infielders before French lost focus after he thought he had the inning-ending strikeout and allowing a line-drive single to extend the Oregon State lead to 3-1.
As often happens, the leadoff base-running scored in the sixth thanks to a sacrifice bunt, groundout, and yet another, this one off the glove of a diving Brett Boswell at third.
The same held true in the top of the seventh, as a leadoff hit, sacrifice, single, and sacrifice fly scored the second Texas run. Baker's single prompted a visit to the mound from the Oregon State pitching coach, leaving shortstop CJ Hinojosa facing Moore with two outs. A nice play by the Beavers first baseman knocked down a hard-hit grounder and Moore was able to cover in time to end the inning.
Hinojosa thought Moore missed the inside of first base, but his protest was to no avail as the game's second critical call went against the Horns.
Sometimes baseball is truly a game of inches and Texas simply wasn't able to get the seeing-eye singles that Oregon State managed. Nor come up with enough key hits overall -- the postseason comes down to hits with runners in scoring position and the bottom line is that the Oregon State offense was better at producing at creating those situations and especially at coming through in them with two outs. Texas had its big chances in the fourth, seventh, and ninth innings. Clemens failed and Hinojosa was a little bit unlucky. So was Johnson when his liner didn't fall late.
And that was that.
"They had more balls find holes than us," French said after the game.
The Longhorns will now have to accomplish the extremely difficult task of wining four straight games to keep the season alive. The Big 12 Championship run was remarkable enough that it's impossible to completely discount this team, but the Texas season is once again on the brink.
The Saturday opponent will be the loser of the Dallas Baptist-VCU contest set to start around 6:30 p.m CT. The losers' bracket game on Saturday is at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2.