After falling in the day game 9-2 to TCU, Texas Longhorns baseball (37-21) took down the Horned Frogs in a must win Big 12 semi-final knockout game 9-3 on Saturday night.
The Longhorns had some wiggle room going into Saturday: the ‘Horns had a 2-0 record in the Big 12 tourney and were in the winner’s bracket, while TCU was 2-1 and facing elimination.
Texas just needed one win over TCU, while the Horned Frogs needed to beat the Longhorns twice.
The Horned Frogs got the best of the Longhorns in game one, taking advantage of a poor performance by Texas starter Kyle Johnston and an overall weak defensive effort by the ‘Horns. Despite a leadoff homer by Patrick Mathis in the first, TCU countered with four runs in the bottom of the inning and really never looked back.
The Horned Frogs had 14 hits on the afternoon, including a double and three triples.
The night game was a different story.
Texas started freshman Blair Henley (Morgan Cooper had some arm soreness), and the youngster delivered his best ever collegiate game.
Texas jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first on a sac fly and two RBI singles to give Henley a cushion against the electric TCU offense.
The ‘Horns allowed two unearned runs in the second after an RBI single scored two including a man who reached base due to a rare David Hamilton error. (All in all, Texas had an uncharacteristic five errors across today’s two games).
The Longhorns, however, blew open the scoring in the top of the fifth when Michael Cantu launched his sixth homer of the year; a three run blast to the deepest part of the ball park.
TCU continued to unravel as the Horned Frogs had to dig deeper into their bullpen. In the eighth, Texas added two more runs on bases loaded walks to make the score 8-2.
Despite not having Cooper available, the ‘Horns’ pitching depth showed in how steady the ‘Horns held up. Henley exited after six complete innings, and Chase Shugart continued right where Henley left off, delivering three scoreless innings to close the game out.
Texas will now face Oklahoma State (29-25) tomorrow at 1 pm CST. The Longhorns beat the Cowboys in both games the two teams played on April 28, by a score of 5-4 and 7-0.
Oklahoma State, however, is in desperation mode as Josh Holliday’s team needs to Big 12 championship’s automatic bid in order to even make the NCAA tournament. The team is peaking at the right time, and will not go down easily tomorrow.
The Cowboys have burned through their most productive starters, but also have had the advantage of playing one less game than the ‘Horns thus far in the tourney. Oklahoma State has gone 3-0 in the tournament and never needed to play in a knockout game.
If Morgan Cooper is still experiencing arm soreness tomorrow, expect Texas to start Connor Mayes (5.06 ERA) at pitcher. The junior has had an up-and-down season, but has historically been a clutch performer in the Big 12 tournament throughout his career.
For the Longhorns, a Big 12 championship win would give them a case for hosting a regional in the NCAA tournament, albeit a small one. I still expect Texas to be a firm two seed, even if they take care of business tomorrow.
Still, the tournament has allowed Texas to bump its resume from a three seed to a two. Perhaps more importantly, the ‘Horns are riding a wave of momentum that could make them a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament.
You can catch Sunday’s game on Fox College Sports at 1 pm CST tomorrow. This is your open thread. Hook ‘em!