A great Big 12 Tournament run from the No. 19 Texas Longhorns came up short, as Texas lost in the finals to the No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners by a final score of 8-1 Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
The Sooners scored all eight of their runs in the bottom of the third inning to run away with the lead, while the Longhorns bats struggled to get anything going, amassing four times as many strikeouts (16) as hits (four) in the ballgame.
Right-hander Travis Sthele made his first start since an April 20th game against Air Force, and though head coach David Pierce’s choice of starter may have surprised some, the redshirt freshman made quick work of his first two innings, striking out three Sooners.
However, Sthele, along with the hopes of winning this game, unraveled in the bottom of the third. After issuing two four-pitch walks back-to-back and an RBI single, a called balk brought in the second OU run of the inning. Right-hander Aaron Nixon came on in relief, but failed to get a single batter out, allowing four earned runs on three singles and a walk. Still with no outs in the inning and facing a 5-1 Oklahoma lead, right-hander Tristan Stevens entered to stop the bleeding and keep Texas in the game before it got away from them.
It took just one pitch for OU to blow the game wide open.
On the very first pitch from Stevens, a three-run, line-drive homer to right field off the bat of catcher Jimmy Crooks cleared the bases, and pushed the OU lead to 8-1.
The lone bright spot of the game on offense for Texas came from a familiar source. In the first inning, Texas got its first and only run of the game on a home run by first baseman Ivan Melendez, his 29th to set the school’s single-season mark.
Along with the 29th home run of the year, the RBI pushed the total by Melendez to 87 on the season also featuring a .406 batting average and possibly the Golden Spikes Award for the nation’s best player.
The bullpen also pitched well for Texas in innings four through eight. Though the game was out of reach, Stevens, right-hander Coy Cobb, and right-hander Lebarron Johnson combined to throw six innings, allowing four hits, one walk, and one run while striking out seven Sooners. While the rest of the game wasn’t enjoyable, it’s encouraging to see key bullpen pieces holding their own for stretches going into regional play.
Obviously, the glaring issue for this team heading into the NCAA Tournament is offense, despite the impressive regular season. Texas averaged just four runs per game, and were held to five runs or less in four of their five Big 12 Tournament games. You can make the point that Texas played five games against teams that were tournament bound (including three against a regional host team in Oklahoma State) but given the concerns in the bullpen Texas has had this year, scoring four runs per game will absolutely not cut it going forward. The Horns just aren’t good enough pitching-wise this year to expect to win low-scoring games night in and night out.
The good news is, that about 15 minutes before watching the Horns record their last out of the game, the NCAA announced there would be a regional hosted by Texas. The Austin Regional, set to begin this Friday, June 3, will be the third regional hosted in Austin in the David Pierce era. Opponents, seeding, and game times will be announced Monday, May 30 at 11:00 a.m Central. That. news will be shared here at Burnt Orange Nation once it’s made available.
Until then, it’s whatever time you’re reading this now, and OU still sucks.
See y’all at the Disch this weekend.