Coming into this series with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, it had that feel of the most important series of the season. One that could dictate how the rest of the season unfolds for the reeling Texas Longhorns.
Instead of walking into Stillwater and making a statement at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, Texas ultimately looked like a group full of disinterested baseball players.
Yeah I get it, the Cowboys are a great squad and this was a tough road series.
Make any excuse you want, but if Texas considers itself a postseason contender, this was a must-win series.
After two blowouts, the Horns were more competitive on Sunday, but their effort was all for not after the Texas bullpen failed yet again to hold a lead in the 11-10 walk-off loss.
Head coach David Pierce shook things up today, as he said he would following the series loss to Kansas State last weekend, starting freshman right-hander Ty Madden, and sending fellow freshman right-hander Coy Cobb to the bullpen.
Madden pitched just two full innings, allowing one hit, a pair of walks, and just one unearned run before Pierce made the move to sophomore right-hander Kamron Fields, who has three saves this season.
Through six complete, the Longhorns secured a 5-3 lead. However, the game was far from over with just three innings left because the bullpen arms for Texas once again failed to hold a lead for the Longhorns. In the series, Pierce’s team simply allowed too many big innings by the home team.
On Sunday, it was more of the same as the Cowboys answered with a 30-minute home half of the sixth, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring six to take a 9-5 lead.
Despite the big inning and blown lead, Texas refused to go quietly. As they shouldn’t.
Texas responded with a rally of their own in the seventh inning, plating three runs to even the score at nine. The big knock came off the bat of senior first baseman Tate Shaw, who sent a two-run home run over the right-field fence to pull the Longhorns within 9-7 and definitely set the tone for inning.
Texas had a great opportunity to score the go-ahead run in the eighth after sophomore third baseman Ryan Reynolds worked a two-out walk, who then went first to third on a Shaw base hit to shallow left center field. The door slammed shut on the rally attempt as freshman second baseman Lance Ford was caught looking at strike three to end the top half of the inning.
Luckily, Texas had one more rally left in the tank.
In the ninth, Texas ironman Michael McCann, the senior catcher who has taken such a beating this season, led things off with a single but was forced out on a fielders choice off the bat of junior center fielder Duke Ellis. The two players switching positions on first played out to as a key moment in the game.
Freshman left fielder Eric Kennedy then singled, allowing Ellis to utilize his speed going first to third. Junior right fielder Austin Todd followed by sending a shallow fly ball to right field, and honestly off the bat, I didn’t think that it would be deep enough to score Ellis.
Pierce took a chance in his fourth game as the third-base coach, sending Ellis against the strong-armed Cowboys outfielder.
Ellis tagged and slid in safely after right fielder Cade Cabbiness airmailed his throw to the backstop.
Longhorns led 10-9 with a chance to close it out. Unfortunately, Fields wasn’t available after throwing 56 pitches earlier in the game.
So the bottom of the ninth was “closer by committee” for the Horns as Tristan Stevens, Matt Whelan, Donny Diaz, and Mason Bryant were all tasked with closing out the ninth.
On par with the 2019 Texas bullpen, things got interesting — no such thing as a routine inning for this ‘pen recently.
With just one away, Oklahoma State loaded the bases after Diaz issued back-to-back walks, forcing Pierce to turn to yet another reliever.
After what should have been strike three on an egregious missed call by the home plate umpire, Bryant sent the very next pitch to the backstop, allowing the Cowboys to tie the game.
Bryant lost his man and ended up walking Simpson with first base open to again load the bases.
The Cowboys walked it off the very next batter after Andrew Navigato sent a fly ball over the head of Ellis, plating the winning run.
This game was a must win, and to lose in that fashion is a gut punch.
A gut punch this team might not recover from, especially given all the mistakes — five errors, 12 walks allowed, and two Cowboys batters hit by Longhorns pitchers.
Texas will look to bounce back on Tuesday as Texas will make the short drive to San Marcos to take on Texas State. First pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.