OKLAHOMA CITY — Texas doesn’t get many walk-off wins, but when they come, boy do they come at huge moments.
Like Saturday, when Kody Clemens hit a shot to that kept carrying until it cleared the centerfield wall at Bricktown Ballpark to give Texas a stunning 2-1 win over TCU. It was the first walk-off win for Texas since last year’s Big 12 tournament when Tres Barrera ripped a game-winning single against Baylor.
Against considerable odds, the seventh-seed Longhorns, led by embattled coach Augie Garrido, were one of only three teams remaining in the tournament as of Saturday afternoon. To advance to Sunday’s championship game against West Virginia, they had to beat TCU for a second time in a rematch that wrapped up past deadline. Ty Culbreth got the start on just two days rest.
With one down in the ninth, Clemens took two balls before swinging away against TCU reliever Dalton Brown. The ball kept rising and landed on a grassy hill beyond center field, approaching the same area reached by Clemens’ brother, Kacy, in Thursday’s win over Baylor. As he rounded third, Clemens removed his elbow guard and advanced full-speed into a mob at home plate. It had been more than a calendar year since Texas celebrated a win like that.
His homer will get the headlines, but it would be a mistake to overlook Clemens’ defense at third base, specifically the wonderful diving stab he made down the line to prevent a run from scoring in the sixth. On the other end of the exchange, Kacy Clemens made a nifty scoop at first to beat Elliott Barzilli.
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) May 28, 2016
Though Texas faltered in the clutch until Clemens’ bomb, it managed to hang around with some key individual efforts, many of them coming from a pitching staff that has held up well over four games. Senior lefty reliever Travis Duke retired all six batters he faced, including striking out big bopper Evan Skoug to end the eighth. Chase Shugart, who has had some issues in pressure situations during his freshman campaign, plunked cleanup hitter Luken Baker to begin the ninth but then shook it off with a double play.
And then there was starter Connor Mayes, who performed his duty masterfully by keeping the bullpen intact for as long as he could. After using 35 pitches to get through the first, Mayes got into a groove and retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. He threw 110 pitches over six innings and struck out six.
The run Mayes surrendered could have been avoided, but left fielder Tyler Rand couldn’t scoop a ball on the first batter of the game and Zane Gurwitz misjudged the depth of Skoug’s double to center.
A day after Garrido credited luck for assisting in a comeback win over Oklahoma State, his team didn’t need any. In fact, they were the superior squad but couldn’t separate due to squandered scoring chances. In the seventh (Bret Boswell) and eighth (Rand), the Horns stranded leadoff doubles with strikeouts. Too, they failed to score with bases loaded in the third when Rand grounded into a double play.
With the victory, Texas improved to 3-1 against TCU.