OKLAHOMA CITY — At a little past 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, one of the worst seasons of Texas baseball gave way to what could turn out to be one of the program’s most interesting offseasons.
After months of conjecture, Augie Watch is officially underway.
Though Augie Garrido didn’t get the Big 12 title that might have assured his return as the Longhorns’ coach in 2017, he at least went down swinging with three wins in the conference tournament. A fourth would’ve put his team in Sunday’s title game, but alas, the charmed run UT put together over four days unraveled in an 8-2 loss to TCU at Bricktown Ballpark.
At 25-32 overall, UT finished with a losing season for just the second time in the past 60 years. Additionally, the 32 losses are tied for the most in program history.
It was a crummy season with an enjoyable conclusion, which included wins in the tournament that were dominant (smoking Baylor, 15-3) improbable (coming back to beat Oklahoma State with a nine-run eighth inning) and also immediate (a walk-off home run by Kody Clemens to beat TCU in Saturday’s first game).
If this is goodbye, at least Augie could crack a few smiles along the way.
“The team came together during this tournament and competed from beginning to end and got to enjoy the rewards of baseball more so than the dark side of baseball,” Garrido said. “I’m really happy about that.”
Garrido maintained he won’t quit voluntarily, so if word comes down in the coming days that he is out after 20 seasons, it’ll be because he was fired.
At times throughout the week, Garrido behaved like this might be the final time he gets to put on a UT uniform and stroll to home plate to exchange lineup cards. When it was his turn to speak at Tuesday’s pre-tournament luncheon, Garrido dealt with emotions as he thanked his coaching peers for bringing quality to the Big 12.
He entered Saturday’s press conference with red eyes and then thanked first baseman Kacy Clemens for Clemens giving a reporter a heartfelt response about what Garrido has meant as a mentor and as a friend. When the press conference was breaking up, Clemens turned to Garrido and said, “I love you.” Garrido softly replied, “I love you, too.”
The other day, a UT official told the American-Statesman that “to the best of my knowledge” no decision had been made on Garrido’s future. It stands to reason Garrido will soon sit down with his superiors, but it’s unclear when that might be with athletic director Mike Perrin heading to Irving on Tuesday for Big 12 meetings.
“If I’m not back, it’s because I couldn’t control the decision that was made,” Garrido said. “But trails end, baby. They all end.”
For a while, it was looking like UT’s postseason trail might lead all the way to a repeat conference title, especially when Kody Clemens ended Saturday’s first game with a walk-off blast to center. However, the narrative shifted when TCU’s Luken Baker took Beau Ridgeway deep with a monstrous three-run home run in the fifth inning that hit a railing above an LED board in left field and then crashed into a hotel across the street. The blast was measured at a whopping 431 feet, which is not out of character for Baker, a mammoth freshman whom TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said barring injury “will be an outstanding Major League player.”
Baker’s blast put TCU in front 4-2, and the lead grew to 7-2 in the sixth on three RBI hits in a row by Evan Skoug, Baker and Elliott Barzilli. At that point, reality began to sink in that Texas, with a depleted pitching staff that began the game with Ty Culbreth operating on two days rest, had reached the end of its season’s line.
“It’s tough right now because we know we’re good enough and we’ve beaten the best,” Kacy Clemens said. “It’s just, we’re too late. When our backs are up against the wall, we realized we have to do this and everyone pulled for each other 100 percent.”
On Sunday, TCU will play West Virginia and attempt to win its second Big 12 tournament in three years. Regardless of the outcome, the Frogs will earn a regional berth and probably be a hosting site.
If Texas does show Garrido the door, Schlossnagle is expected to be a top candidate along with usual suspects like Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan, Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin and Virginia’s Brian O’Connor. Keep an eye on Tulane’s David Pierce, too.
Yet for now, there’s not an opening. Just a bunch of talk.
Augie Watch is underway.