COLLEGE STATION — Rick Perry missed a good game.
The former governor of Texas took in eight mostly mundane innings from a suite at Blue Bell Park before taking off and beating the crowd on Tuesday.
An Aggie diehard, Perry presumably did not see Texas’ ninth-inning comeback to tie the game, nor did he see second-ranked A&M’s walk-off rebuttal for a 5-4 win.
This rivalry is dead? Try telling that to A&M’s Tyler Ivey and Texas’ Tres Barrera. As other Aggies were dancing on home plate celebrating Michael Barash’s walk-off home run, Ivey, the Aggies’ ace, snuck free from the scrub and flashed horns down at the Texas dugout.
Barrera, who is probably the Longhorns’ most emotional player, didn’t like what was happening and confronted Ivey and they had to be separated. The teams exchanged long stares, but the majority of the back-and-forth was between Ivey and Barrera, who was still wearing his catching gear.
“I don’t think it would take much,” UT coach Augie Garrido said. “I think everyone is extremely competitive and they’re on the edge, so that type of stuff happens.”
These schools just can’t get along, nor, frankly, do they want to. A&M fans, which made up most of the crowd of 6,965, took aim at UT starter Morgan Cooper, harassing him with frequent chants of “Moooorrrrgannn!” When Kacy Clemens came to bat in the second, he was serenaded with taunts of “HGH!” No explanation needed for that one.
It was the first time these old Big 12 foes stepped onto the same field since UT eliminated the Aggies in the 2014 regional en route to advancing to Omaha for the College World Series. They’ll meet again next season in Austin, and it remains to be seen if Barrera, a junior, and Ivey, a freshman from Rockwall-Heath, will have cooled down by then.
All-time, UT now leads the series 242-125-5.
Before the bad-news ninth, there was a good-news ninth which resulted in UT (7-10) snapping out of a prolonged slumber at the plate with four runs and making it 4-4. The first two runs came on a ground rule double by Kody Clemens with no outs, and the next two came on Bret Boswell’s two-out single to left. In between those at-bats, Travis Jones battled back from down 1-2 for a seven-pitch walk against reliever Turner Larkins.
And like that, A&M (16-1) was suddenly in danger of getting stunned by a Texas team that was 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and is now 1-7 against teams ranked in the top 25.
In search of a closer, Texas turned to Saturday starter Ty Culbreth to work the ninth, which is curious because Garrido has said Culbreth is uncomfortable in that spot. Culbreth, who was scheduled to take a bullpen session on Tuesday, requested that it be delayed so that he could be available to lend a hand. A native of nearby Bryan, who could blame him for wanting in on the action?
Culbreth (2-2) deserved a better fate after Kacy Clemens and second baseman Joe Baker let a routine fly ball by Barash drop into foul territory on the first at-bat of the inning.
“(Baker) took his eye off of it to see where Kacy was, and amazing, it flew back farther than he anticipated,” Garrido said.
Two pitches later, Barash hit a bomb to left marking the second time in four days Texas lost on a walk-off homer.
Over the past two seasons, Texas is now 37-37, and things won’t be getting easier the next two weekends. Tulane (10-6) comes to town for three games starting Friday, and UT will open Big 12 play the following weekend against TCU.
Garrido revealed that Cooper, who worked six innings for the second week in a row, is probably heading to the weekend rotation for the TCU series. That probably means someone — likely weekend starters Kyle Johnston or Connor Mayes — will relinquish their role and take on closer duties.
Cooper gave up four runs (three earned) and struck out three, including Boomer White, who had not struck out in his previous 62 at-bats. In the third, Cooper slipped and fell trying to handle a grounder and loaded the bases. Two runs came in on a single and a throwing error by Baker.