The No. 18 Texas Longhorns bounced back from a Saturday morning defeat at the hands of the No. 18 Oklahoma State Cowboys with a 9-2 evening victory at Globe Life Field in Arlington in the Big 12 Tournament to advance to Sunday’s title game against the No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners.
Texas lost the morning game against Oklahoma, a sound 8-1 defeat by the Cowboys during which the Longhorns struggled to come through with clutch hits, stranding 10 runners. When the game was still within reach, Texas put runners on first and second with no outs and in the first and second innings, but were unable to produce any runs. By the third inning, however, the Longhorns were in a 6-0 hole as starter Zane Morehouse struggled, allowing those six runs on seven hits, more than enough production to secure the victory.
The two teams matched up for a third time in the Big 12 Tournament on Saturday afternoon with a trip to the conference finals on the line and shortstop Trey Faltine came through with two doubles and four RBIs to pace the Longhorns. First baseman Ivan Melendez added his first two hits of the tournament and one RBI as Texas notched 11 hits with four hits by pitches and three walks.
Right-hander Andre Duplantier received his sixth start of the season as he tried to pitch more than an inning for the first time throwing 4.1 innings against Texas State in early March. Allowing a leadoff walk and a single, Duplantier quickly found himself in trouble with runners on first and third and no outs. A sacrifice fly to left field gave Oklahoma State the lead as Duplantier recorded his first out. With runners on first and second following a stolen base and a walk, Duplantier induced a line drive out to Eric Kennedy and then struck out the next batter to end the inning, escaping the jam without too much damage.
In the second inning, the Longhorns threatened with an infield single by designated hitter Austin Tood and a walk by catcher Silas Ardoin. Second baseman Mitchell Daly appeared to chop a tailor-made double play to the pitcher, but he threw the ball into center field and Texas tied the game at 1-1 with runners on first and third. Another infield single, this time by Faltine, gave the Longhorns the lead. Texas was unable to break the game open after Kennedy stranded two runners when he was caught looking on a 1-2 pitch.
Texas kept the pressure on Oklahoma State starter Hueston Morrill in the third. First baseman Ivan Melendez picked up his first hit in Arlington to lead off the inning and right fielder Murphy Stehly followed with a drag bunt single. Todd bunted, as well, and Morrill made another error, looking to second before throwing late to first. When Morill hits third baseman Skyler Messinger, the Horns added to the lead, ending the outing for Morrill.
Right-hander Kale Davis came in and struck out Ardoin and Daly, relying primarily on a fastball in the mid-90s, but Faltine came through with the big hit the Longhorns needed, clearing the bases with a double smashed into the left-field corner to make it 6-1.
Center fielder Douglas Hodo III followed with a double of his own down the left-field line to score Faltine from second.
Out of the bullpen, right-hander Jared Southard didn’t allow any hits in 1.2 innings, but walked four batters, including two in the fourth inning, resulting in his departure in favor of left-hander Luke Harrison, who loaded the bases with another walk before shutting down the attempted rally with a groundout to first base.
Texas continued to punish the Oklahoma State bullpen in the fifth inning when Faltine doubled and scored on a two-out triple by left fielder Dylan Campbell, who replaced Kennedy.
Melendez followed with an RBI single and Stehly was hit by a pitch with both runners advancing on a passed ball, giving Texas a 9-1 lead.
A home run by Oklahoma State in the fifth inning set back Texas attempts to run-rule the Cowboys to end the game early and save two innings of bullpen work and the Longhorns weren’t able to score in the sixth or seventh innings. either. But Harrison ended up pitching 2.1 solid innings before giving way in the seventh to right-hander Marcus Olivarez, who set down the side in order. The following inning didn’t go as smoothly with two singles by Oklahoma State putting runners on first and second with one out. Olivarez was able to record the second out with a popup in foul territory behind first base and closed his appearance with a flyout to Campbell in left field.
In the ninth, right-hander Tristan Stevens came on to record the final three outs, including a groundout to second and two strikeouts.
Texas faces Oklahoma on Sunday at 5 pm Central on ESPNU for the Big 12 Tournament title. Now back up to 11th in WarrenNolan.com’s live RPI, the Longhorns have positioned themselves to host a regional regardless of what happen on Sunday.