No. 12 Texas Longhorns baseball (37-19, 17-7 Big 12) fell 3-2 in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday afternoon to the Kansas Jayhawks (27-28, 8-15 Big 12) in Oklahoma City. Texas will now face Oklahoma on Thursday at 9 am CST in an elimination game.
The key for the Jayhawks in the victory was the excellence of starter Jackson Goddard. The junior righty put down Texas’ first six batters in order (striking out four) and really never lost his groove in his 6.2 innings pitched.
Texas’ Matteo Bocchi was much more volatile from the mound, walking two in the first and allowing a double in the second inning. Bocchi, however, did not allow a run in his first three innings.
The Jayhawks broke open the scoring in the fourth frame after a leadoff walk followed by an RBI double to third base that was too hot to handle for Ryan Reynolds. The runner on second advanced to third on a groundout, and after another walk, freshman Bryce Elder took over the hill for Bocchi. Kansas earned another run on a sac fly to make it 2-0, but that would be the last of the damage in the fourth.
Texas got one back in the fifth. Masen Hibbeler started the inning with a walk, then stole second, and Ryan Reynolds was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. DJ Petrinsky then struck a single to the left side to cut the lead in half.
The rally was killed, however, after Tate Shaw popped up a bunt that failed to advance the runners from first and second. Jake McKenzie then struck out on a hit and run — and though Texas was able to pull off a double steal on the play to put runners on second and third — David Hamilton lined out to end the inning.
Texas freshman reliever Matthew Whelan turned in a very solid outing, keeping the Jayhawks in check for his three innings of work. In his 11 batters faced, he struck out three, walked two, and allowed only one hit.
Whelan was replaced by lefty Josh Sawyer in the eighth who gave up a critical solo shot to make the score 3-1. In a game where Texas simply couldn’t get the bats going, the dinger was a huge dagger.
After Sawyer walked the first batter in the ninth, Andy McGuire came on and recorded a groundout and then a single to put runners on the corners with one out. The closer, however, struck out the next two batters to prevent further damage.
Down two in the bottom of the ninth, Duke Ellis got the inning started with a bloop single. Kody Clemens then took one for a ride but was retired at the warning track in center field. Zach Zubia then walked, but Hibbeler flied out to bring Texas to its final out.
Ryan Reynolds knocked an RBI single to make it 3-2, but with runners on the corners and two outs, Petrinsky grounded out to end the game.
Losing to the No. 8 seed as the No. 1 seed stings, but the stakes for Texas were thankfully not too high. The ‘Horns have likely secured an NCAA regional host bid, and an early Big 12 tournament exit for David Pierce’s team would allow more time for Texas to prepare for the NCAA tournament. It’s telling that Kansas, in desperation mode, used its Saturday starter as a reliever today, while Texas started midweek pitcher Bocchi in favor of its stud arms.
That said, Texas certainly does not want to bow out of the tournament early and there’s no doubt the Longhorns came to Oklahoma City to compete.
The ‘Horns will face Oklahoma on Thursday morning (tomorrow) at 9 am CST.