UT pitcher Jake McKenzie delivers a pitch in the third inning against UConn at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Sunday February 26, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Baseball

Big 12 tournament notebook: McKenzie’s role at Texas shifts to clutch hitter

After a 1-for-13 start to the season, junior utility man delivered Thursday night's game-winning hit

Posted May 26th, 2017

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Texas collected 11 hits in a 5-4 win over Kansas at the Big 12 tournament on Thursday. But for their most-important hit, the Longhorns turned to their bench.

Thursday’s decisive run was scored in the sixth. With left-handed pitcher Chase Kaplan emerging from the Kansas bullpen and Longhorns on second and third base, Texas coach David Pierce had Jake McKenzie pinch-hit for Patrick Mathis. With one out, the junior drove in a run with a double to the left field wall.

McKenzie’s double gave Texas a 5-2 lead.

“Just a tremendous job from more than just the starters, guys like Jake coming off the bench,” Pierce said. “Really just a great team win.”

McKenzie was boasting a .077 batting average, having gotten a single hit in his 13 at-bats this season. Mathis, who was the team’s leadoff hitter and right fielder, was 2 for 2 with a walk on Thursday.

Pierce, however, said that McKenzie was one of his best contact hitters, which is what UT needed in that situation. McKenzie’s right-handed bat also gave Texas a matchup advantage against Kaplan; Mathis bats from the left side.

“I just liked the matchup, I liked Jake’s confidence in that situation,” said Pierce, who had discussed the possibility of pinch-hitting McKenzie during a similar situation against Oklahoma on Wednesday. “He did a great job coming off the bench.”

Designate hitter Jake McKenzie (#51) at bat as the Texas Tech University played the University of Texas at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2017 (Andy Nietupski for AMERICAN STATESMAN)

The versatile McKenzie holds a 3.45 ERA over 15.2 innings as a pitcher. He has started twice at third base and been used as a designated hitter and second baseman. He’s also the only Longhorn not named Kacy Clemens to play at first base this season.

For good measure, the two-time Big 12 all-academic honoree is studying petroleum engineering.

McKenzie, though, has not logged any time in the outfield, so he was replaced by Tate Shaw in the top of the seventh inning. Shaw wasn’t the only edit to Texas’ outfield; Austin Todd subbed in for left fielder Travis Jones in the fifth inning. (When he entered, Shaw was Texas’ left fielder and Todd shifted to right). Tyler Rand was a defensive substitution in center field in the ninth.

“Some of us were joking, how many teams can finish the game with three different outfielders than they started the game with,” McKenzie said. “I thought that was pretty cool, so it says a lot about our team.”

West Virginia’s Jackson Cramer (13) steals second under Texas’s Bret Boswell (17) during a Big 12 baseball game at Disch-Falk Field, Saturday, May 20, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Crazy comeback: West Virginia never led until extra innings, but six runs in the 10th led to a 12-7 stunning of Texas Tech at the Big 12 tournament. With the win, the Mountaineers eliminated the tournament’s top seed and the third-ranked team in D1baseball.com’s national poll.

Before it ran away from the Red Raiders in extra innings, West Virginia overcame a two-run deficit with an out in the ninth. To being the comeback, Jackson Cramer singled in a teammate with a hit to right field. Cramer’s single, though, turned into the game-tying run when outfielder Ryan Long misplayed the ball and Cramer beat the throw home.

West Virginia advances to play Oklahoma State at 9 a.m. on Saturday. West Virginia (34-23) and Oklahoma State (28-25) have split their four games this year, but the Cowboys’ most-recent win in the series was an 8-4 triumph on Thursday.

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