After another surprising run in Oklahoma City, Texas Longhorns baseball fell in a Big 12 semifinal elimination game against the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday, 8-2. Texas’ season is now over, as head coach Augie Garido's team needed to win today and tomorrow in order to get an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament.
The final record is 25-32, meaning that the 2016 campaign is tied for the most losses by a Texas baseball team in school history. The only other time the Longhorns had 32 losses was in 1998, Garrido’s second season.
Here’s what’s happened in Texas’ five game week:
Wednesday-- Texas 4, Oklahoma State 10
Texas jumped out to an early lead, but let up eight runs in a fifth inning meltdown. Shortstop Joe Baker was replaced from the game after making two errors in the disastrous inning. He hasn’t appeared in a game since. The climax of the Cowboys’ rally was when Conor Costello hit a grand slam off of freshman pitcher Beau Ridgeway.
Thursday-- Texas 15, Baylor 3
The win was never in question in this one. Pitcher Morgan Cooper went the distance as Texas run-ruled Baylor in only seven innings. Texas’ seven run seventh inning was the most runs Texas had gotten in a season at that point. Kacy Clemens went 3-4, and added a home run to his name.
Friday -- Oklahoma State 8, Texas 12
Texas again jumped out to an early lead against Oklahoma State and again lost their composure in the middle of the game. After the home plate ump stated that Cowboy Conor Costello wasn’t out of the basepath/tagged on a steal home, Texas ultimately gave up seven runs in the sixth inning. Texas looked like they were out of it, until Oklahoma State inserted struggling closer Tyler Buffett into the game with a five run lead, perhaps to help his confidence. Texas went on to have a nine run 8th inning to take a 12-8 lead that would hold the rest of the game.
Saturday -- TCU 1, Texas 2
A slow game had a big finish. After pitcher Connor Mayes’ best performance of the season, it was ultimately Kody Clemens who won the game for Texas. With the score tied at one, Kody destroyed one in the bottom of the ninth over the center field fence.
Saturday -- Texas 2, TCU 7
Texas suffered a fifth-inning gut punch thanks to TCU’s Luken Baker launching a three-run bomb on Beau Ridgeway to make it 4-2 TCU. Texas ultimately didn’t have the arms or the bats to finish the game strong. TCU added three more runs in the inning as Texas went through a pitching carousel. Texas continually left runners on base this weekend, and it finally came back to haunt them today. The Longhorns were all out of late inning magic, and were eliminated.
This one hurts, but Texas outperformed all expectations this week. Whether that’s enough to keep Augie Garrido’s job remains to be seen. For now, here’s five positive takeaways from Texas’ five tournament games:
1. Texas cut down on errors.
Patrick Mathis made nine errors in right field this season, including many during key moments. Despite this, Augie Garrido insisted that Mathis is the best outfielder on the team, to the befuddlement of baseball writers and fans alike. However, Mathis showed off his speed and athletic ability in a Sportscenter Top 10 diving grab against Oklahoma State. The catch energized the Longhorns, who jumped out to a 3-1 lead over the Cowboys before eventually winning 12-8.
Mathis was second in errors on the team this year, and there were many. And who was is first? No other but tournament hero Kody Clemens. Clemens had 12 mistakes on the year, but his ridiculous diving stop at third base might have saved the game in Texas’ first match against TCU.
Kody Clemens diving stop pic.twitter.com/S7OEKVL0mA— Travis Recek -TWCN (@TravisRecek) May 28, 2016
As a team, Texas made three errors in their last four games. This is a huge improvement for a team that recorded 79 on the season. Texas looked focused on the defense, and had a fire that had been missing ever since they were eliminated from at large bid contention.
2. Connor Mayes and company got their mojo back.
Sophomore pitcher Connor Mayes was tabbed by many to be Texas’ best pitcher this season. However, Mayes found himself out of the weekend rotation. His performances during his midweek games didn’t help his case -- he gave up three runs in 2.1 innings to UT Rio Grande Valley.
To succeed in the tournament, a team must have depth, so Augie Garrido turned to Connor Mayes to start against TCU with Texas’ backs against the wall. Mayes responded by going six innings and giving up only one run. Mayes had a season high in strikeouts, recording six K’s.
All of the Texas pitching staff have really stepped up so far this weekend. From Morgan Cooper going the distance, to Ty Culbreth returning to his early season form, the pitching staff has much to be proud of.
3. Bret Boswell changed the narrative that he regressed.
After being an integral part of the 2015 season, redshirt sophomore Bret Boswell found himself out of the lineup for most of the 2016 campaign. Boswell had hit only .198 this year, when Augie Garrido made the move to insert him into the game for Joe Baker. Boswell took the opportunity by going an incredible 9-15 in the tournament, and made crucial plays on defense as well.
To make a run in the tournament, it was clear that Texas needed a new face to step up. Boswell was a catalyst for the Longhorns, and became a reliable hitter in the middle of the order. Texas as a whole hit much better than their .268 season average -- the 'Horns had at least 10 hits in every game of the tournament, and had four home runs as well.
4. Texas got revenge against Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Baylor took two of three against Texas in the final regular season series of the season. With the stadium virtually empty at UFCU Disch-Falk field, the Bears held Texas in back-to-back games. Texas got revenge when they run ruled Baylor in only seven innings, winning 17-4.
After going 0-4 against Oklahoma State and losing by an average of four runs, Texas avenged their downfalls in their most crucial fifth face off. The Cowboys had embarrassed the Longhorns earlier in the year, and were the first Big 12 team to sweep Texas. Said sweep was what put the nail in the coffin for Texas’ at large tournament hopes, making it necessary for the Longhorns to win the Big 12 championship to clinch an NCAA tournament berth.
5. The players confirmed that they have heart.
While their composure has been put into question, no one has ever doubted that the Longhorn unit plays with passion. This weekend featured a plethora of fist pumps, as Texas was able to harvest their emotion towards good use. After originally melting down against after a highly questionable call against Oklahoma State, Texas responded with a nine run 8th inning. The next game against TCU, Kody Clemens smashed a walk-off homer, the first for Texas in over a year.
Texas looked like a team that was playing for themselves, and for their coach. Augie Garrido repeatedly claimed that he "could fix" the deep hole Texas found themselves in. Perhaps the players believed their coach and that the problems could be solved, even when no one else found truth in the claim. Texas struggled mightily this season, but it’s clear the players and coaches have a mutual admiration for one another. This passion and respect was the glue that briefly held together a season that had long seemed entirely unraveled.