The No. 1 seed Texas Longhorns rebounded from a disappointing Wednesday loss to beat the No. 5 seed Oklahoma Sooners 4-1 on Thursday in the Big 12 Tournament at Oklahoma City’s Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Right-hander Tristan Stevens led the way with a sparkling outing, pitching seven innings and allowing only a single run on four hits to earn his ninth win of the season. Stevens walked two batters and struck out four in throwing 102 pitches, ending his appearance with a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play.
The performance was even more remarkable for Stevens because he didn’t have a good feel for his sinking fastball, so he went to his changeup and his slider to work off of his fastball and it was ultimately an effective strategy.
It was the 11th straight outing for Stevens with six or more innings pitched.
In relief, right-hander Aaron Nixon struck out four over the final two innings while allowing one hit and walking one batter to pick up his eighth save.
At the plate, the Longhorns largely struggled to get hits, with first baseman Zach Zubia picking up three of the five hits on the day — right fielder Douglas Hodo III and shortstop Trey Faltine were the only other Texas players to record hits. Hodo drew two walks, scored twice, and had an RBI double.
Texas did draw nine walks overall, but struck out 17 times, including 11 strikeouts in the five innings pitched by Wyatt Olds out of the bullpen thanks to a fastball that peaked at 97 miles per hour and a plus slider.
“It was just one of those grind-type days, it wasn’t pretty at times and struck out too much, but we had a couple of clutch hits and Zoob had a big day,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “And I thought, again, we played solid defense to secure another day in the tournament, so I’m just proud of our team for going out there and not giving in and just doing whatever we had to do to figure out how to win a ballgame today.”
Catcher Silas Ardoin got the Horns on the board in the second inning with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Hodo, who had walked earlier in the frame. The following inning, Hodo scored second baseman Mitchell Daly with a double into the right-center gap.
In the fourth, Zubia drove in center fielder Mike Antico with a single to center field. Hodo scored again in the eighth when he walked, stole second, advanced to third on a walk, then added the game’s final run on a wild pitch.
Pierce thought the team’s overall approach was an improvement after the rather lackluster loss to the Mountaineers.
“I just felt like there was a little bit more intent, a little bit more focused, a little bit more urgency about it, and it started on our BP in our prep work,” Pierce said of the better demeanor for his team. “So, yeah, in a good way, I definitely think so and the adversity is something we’re going to deal with and you’re never glad you’re in a loser’s bracket, but it always test your team and see what happens.”
Texas will face the winner of No. 4 seed Oklahoma State and No. 8 seed West Virginia on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Central on ESPN+/Big 12 Now.