Throw a parade: Texas is going to the Big 12 tournament.
It was touch-and-go there for a while, but in a heroic effort on the final weekend of the regular season, the Longhorns pulled through and claimed their ticket.
OK, so they backed into the field and will head to Oklahoma City playing by far their worst ball of the season. Including Friday’s 3-1 loss to Baylor, Texas hasn’t won a conference game in a month, a streak of eight defeats. Worse, it has now suffered 30 losses for just the second time in school history.
But enough with the negativity. The Horns are tournament bound, earning a berth earlier in the day when Kansas fell to Oklahoma State.
“I thought for sure they’d be loose and play good,” UT coach Augie Garrido said. “They jumped for joy when they were in and they came out and played the same game they played last night.”
By last night, Garrido was referring to Thursday’s listless 2-1 loss.
Through two games this series, Texas has scored exactly two runs. Not good enough, clearly, but also not terribly surprising for a team that hasn’t come close to replicating the team that won a road series at Big 12 champion Texas Tech just one month ago.
The first round of the tournament is set. Texas, the seventh seed, will take on second seed Oklahoma State in a rematch of last year’s title game. It’ll probably get Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. slot so that the locals can make it out in time to see their Pokes play. Three weeks ago, OSU came to Austin and outscored Texas 17-7 in a sweep.
Given that Friday’s outcome didn’t mean a whole lot, pitching coach Skip Johnson got a head start and set up his pitching rotation for next week. He limited starter Ty Culbreth to three innings and replaced the senior lefty with weekend starter Kyle Johnston, who also went three innings.
Connor Mayes will start in place of Johnston in Saturday’s finale.
“We decided to do that once we knew we were in,” Garrido said.
Unless a miraculous run is forthcoming, Texas (21-30, 9-14) will tie or exceed the 32 losses of Garrido’s second team in 1998. As for winning percentage, the 27 percent put up by the 5-13 club in 1956 will remain the program’s standard for futility.
Despite drawing eight walks, only one of them came around to score. Texas left 11 runners on base, including two in the second inning with no outs. Tyler Rand, batting leadoff for the first time, went 0-for-5. Joe Baker went 0-for-3 with two walks and is now in a 2-for-27 slump.
During the skid, Baker’s batting average has dipped 61 points to .252. Asked if the oft-injured shortstop is hurt, Garrido said, “No, he’s just struggling.”
Kacy Clemens singled through the right side in the third for UT’s only run. With a chance to inflict further damage, Patrick Mathis grounded into a fielder’s choice for the final out.
Mathis had a rough night, striking out in the second inning on a fouled bunt and again in the sixth when he waved at a pitch well outside of the zone. Consequently, he was yanked from the game and did not play defense in the top of the seventh.
Asked about Mathis’ at-bats, Garrido responded with one word:
Baylor, which with the win earned the sixth seed in the tournament, scored all of its runs in the seventh. Matt Menard chased reliever Eric Dunbar with a two-run double to right. Travis Duke came to the mound, threw a wild pitch to bring a runner to third, and then gave up a run on Kameron Esthay’s single to left.