Texas Longhorns baseball (30-17, 12-6 Big 12) fell in the series finale rubber match to the West Virginia Mountaineers (22-19, 6-9 Big 12) 8-3 on Sunday afternoon in Morgantown.
The ‘Horns may have lost more than just the series on Sunday -- the result puts both Texas’ hopes of hosting an NCAA regional and winning the Big 12 regular season championship in serious jeopardy.
In a series that was marked by high scoring, Texas didn’t wait to strike first in game three. Masen Hibbeler opened the game with a lead off walk, and then Duke Ellis followed with a bunt single. After Kody Clemens grounded out, Zach Zubia reached on an error by the shortstop that scored Hibbeler. David Hamilton then notched an RBI groundout to make the score 2-0.
Texas starter Blair Henley battled through three scoreless innings to hold the lead, but then ran into trouble in the fourth. Henley walked the lead off man and then allowed a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. An RBI groundout scored a run, and then three straight singles scored two more to make it 3-2 West Virginia.
West Virginia tacked on another crucial run in the bottom of the sixth to bring the score to 4-2 after a wild pitch scored a runner from third with two outs.
The ‘Horns fought back and came to the plate aggressive in the top of the seventh. Texas knocked three straight one-out singles to cut the WVU lead to 4-3. However, with runners on the corners and one out, Clemens struck out and Zubia was retired on a grounder to third to keep the Mountaineers in the drivers seat.
Henley was replaced by lefty Josh Sawyer to start the bottom of the seventh, and was on the hook for the loss. The sophomore’s final line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K.
Sawyer struck out two and held WVU scoreless in the eighth, but was pulled in favor of Matteo Bocchi after a lead off single in the bottom of the eighth.
On a hit and run, Bocchi allowed a bloop single to put runners on the corners with no outs. A passed ball and a walk loaded the bases, and then a triple to left center cleared them to make it 7-3. After a foul out, a one out squeeze bunt for a single brought the lead to 8-3 West Virginia.
The inning would simply not end, as the Mountaineers then notched a single to put runners on the corners with one out. Bryce Elder came on and recorded a strikeout, walk to load the bases, and then a ground out to get out of the nightmare inning.
The deficit, however, would be insurmountable for the Longhorn bats. Texas was retired in the top of the ninth without scoring to end the game and the series.
The series loss highlights that until Texas’ pitching improves, the Longhorns are more in the “bubble-plus” category of the NCAA tournament rather than a regional host. The ‘Horns simply don’t have the dominant arms of years past to keep leads secure, and Texas’ offense hasn’t been quite clutch enough in pressure situations to make up for it.
Texas is back in action at home against Texas State on Tuesday at 6:30 pm CST. BON will have you covered on the preview and recap for the ‘Horns’ match-up against the Bobcats.