Just this past Friday, the Texas Longhorns lost a closely-contested game against LSU, where the difference in the game could ultimately have been decided by the umpires. And with a cruel dose of déjà vu, the Longhorns lost another closely-contested game that ended on a highly controversial strike three call against Texas just as they were threatening to take the lead in the bottom of the ninth.
Granted, to be completely honest, this wasn’t a game Texas deserved to win. After playing so well defensively in the first two games of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Classic, the Horns committed five errors on Sunday that resulted in allowing four unearned runs to the Missouri Tigers.
It’s tough to win any game in college while committing that many errors and allowing that many unearned runs, and Missouri deserves some credit for not committing any errors and providing a clean sheet themselves. But the fact remains that this loss stings, in large part due to how it ended.
As will be the standard for all weekend series, Coy Cobb got the start for Texas to end the weekend. Cobb pitched well against Mizzou, but fell victim to a few of the errors early in the game — the Tigers scored twice in the first three innings, with both runs coming in as a result of a defensive miscue.
Texas got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning after Eric Kennedy hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Cam Williams from third. After four innings, the Missouri lead was just 2-1 in what was largely just a mildly eventful Sunday game up to that point.
Things started heating up in the fifth inning, however. Missouri kicked off the frame by adding a run off of Cobb on a solo home run to left field. The home run happened with two outs and a 3-0 count on the batter when Cobb was forced to throw a strike that the Missouri batter sat on and launched into left. After allowing his first and only earned run of the day, Cobb allowed a sharply hit line drive to the corner in right field. But an outstanding relay from right field to third base nabbed the runner for the final out of the inning.
Relay perfection.— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 1, 2020
Mark that one down as 9️⃣4️⃣5️⃣ and that’ll do it for the top of the 5th.
Horns trail, 3-1.#HookEm pic.twitter.com/Eotblv34Pu
Cobb did not return to the game, as that assist ended his outing. After a wild appearance full of defensive errors and occasional web gems, Cobb’s line settled at 5.0 innings, six hits, one walk, three runs (only one earned), and four strikeouts.
Texas trailed entering the bottom of the fifth inning, but didn’t exit the inning with a deficit. The first five Longhorns to bat all got on base — four via the walk. Lance Ford opened with a full count base on balls, but after Austin Todd’s bunt single, Duke Ellis, Zach Zubia, and Williams all walked (except for Zubia, who was hit by a pitch) on 11 consecutive balls thrown by two Missouri pitchers.
When all the walking was over, the game was already tied 3-3, with the bases still loaded for Texas. Unfortunately, the Longhorns only got one of those three runners in to score. Faltine struck out for out number one, then Kennedy again hit into a sacrifice to score a run in trade for an out. With two outs and two runners in scoring position, DJ Petrinsky popped up to the first baseman to end the inning with Texas holding a 4-3 lead.
In relief of Cobb, Pierce went with Kolby Kubichek. And for Kubichek, he picked an unfortunate time to have his worst outing of the season.
Kubichek started the inning off by committing an error of his own, throwing wildly to allow the lead off Mizzou batter to get to second base. After a wild pitch moved that runner to third, a single scored a run to tie up the ballgame at 4-4. Kubichek then allowed two more singles and another runner to advance before being pulled for Tristan Stevens, ending his night after recording just out.
However, for as bad as Kubichek was, Stevens wasn’t much better. Brought in to stop the bleeding with runners on the corners, Stevens allowed a walk and then a single that brought in two and pushed the Mizzou lead to 7-4. A second single allowed netted Mizzou another run, and forced Pierce to call for the second pitching change in the inning after Stevens failed to record an out and allowed three runs to cross home.
Texas was able to escape that inning without allowing another run, but now trailed 8-4. But the Horns weren’t done, and after the pitchers settled into a groove, the comeback bid began in the seventh inning for the Longhorns.
A leadoff Zubia walk put a runner on base for Williams, who doubled to right to score Zubia from first to make the score 8-5. That’s all Texas accomplished in the seventh, but in the eight, they added two more runs to make it a one run game. After Austin Todd and Duke Ellis singled, Zubia singled to bring in Todd, and later Ellis scored on a wild pitch. Going into the ninth, Texas trailed 8-7.
Missouri added an insurance run off of Donny Diaz in the ninth inning, the fourth and final tally to result from an error. A bad throw to second by catcher Silas Ardoin on a steal attempt allowed a runner on third to score easily, pushing the Tigers lead to 9-7. Texas would escape the inning, and make its last push in the bottom of the ninth.
After two quick outs to begin the bottom frame, Texas was down to its last out, still down two runs. Silas Ardoin singled, and was pinch ran for by Andre Duplantier, who then stole second. After Douglas Hodo III forced a walk, Todd singled to right, scoring Duplantier from second and moving the tying run in Hodo to third. With Texas threatening once again to tie or take the lead, and the top of the order coming up to the plate, the momentum was squarely on the Texas’ side.
Ellis came up to the plate, and with Hodo on third and Todd at first, a single in the outfield would definitely tie the game — and possibly win it, too. Ellis took the first two pitches, then fouled back a third to get into a 1-2 count.
Then, this happened.
Again, as I mentioned above, Texas didn’t deserved to win this game based on its five errors, allowing nine runs, not producing runs with runners in scoring position, etc. You name it. The Horns didn’t play their best yesterday, and it showed.
But still... that hurts to see.
Burnt Orange Nation and twitter reacted somewhat as you’d expect to that final pitch.
Called strike three to end the game. #UmpShow pic.twitter.com/Mk1mesodFZ— Burnt Orange Nation (@BON_SBNation) March 2, 2020
But at the end of the day, that was some great framing from the catcher, and the final out of a 9-8 Missouri victory.
The Longhorns will look to regroup from a disappointing end to a competitive tournament in what should be a good game in Austin on Tuesday night. Arizona comes to town to face off against Texas at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, with first pitch set for 6:30 PM CST. Arizona has gotten off to a rough start to the season and currently sits at 7-4, but has been ranked in the top 25 as recently as last week, reaching a ranking as high as No. 22 on Baseball America.