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Skyler Messinger's grand slam leads Texas to a wild win with Big 12 Tournament on deck

Danny Davis
Austin American-Statesman

A few things happened at the Texas-Kansas baseball game Saturday afternoon.

After telling a player that he was having trouble seeing the baseball, home plate umpire Jon Wolfe removed himself from the game. A reserve was ejected from the Kansas dugout at one point. Two scuffles nearly broke out between the Longhorns and Jayhawks. And the Longhorn Network had to stream that final two innings on Instagram after a fire in the production truck killed the television broadcast.

But while chaos reigned, so did the Texas Longhorns.

A grand slam by Skyler Messinger and home runs by Eric Kennedy, Murphy Stehly and Austin Todd powered No. 22 Texas to an 11-6 win in its regular-season finale. After rallying from a five-run deficit at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Texas (39-17, 14-10) will head into next week's Big 12 Tournament as the No. 5 seed.

More:Ivan Melendez enters Longhorn lore with 28th homer as No. 22 Texas blasts Kansas

Texas infielder Skyler Messinger swings at a ball during the game against Kansas at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Thursday. He hit a grand slam against his former team Saturday to help Texas secure the series sweep.

"Any win that you can have is a good win going forward," Todd said. "It's a lot better than a loss, especially on one of your last days at the Disch."

After pummeling Kansas by a combined score of 20-5 over the first two games, UT found itself in a 5-0 hole Saturday. By the time the LHN broadcast cut out around the seventh-inning stretch, Kansas was up 5-2.

With two outs in the seventh inning, Texas got a run back on an RBI single by Stehly. Todd then fouled off four two-strike pitches before drawing a walk that loaded the bases. That set up Messinger, who pounced on the second pitch he saw from Kolby Dougan.

Texas coach David Pierce referred to that grand slam as a "storybook" for Messinger, who spent the past four seasons at Kansas. Messinger joined the Longhorns this year as a graduate transfer.

For his part, Messinger insisted that he cared more about the moment than the opponent. The 10th home run of the third baseman's season gave Texas its first lead of the day over a KU team that Messinger holds no ill will toward. In fact, he was greeted by Kansas coach Ritch Price during the pregame Senior Day ceremony.

"There's no bad blood between me and KU," Messinger said. "I was fired up and it was a cool moment."

Kennedy, Stehly and Todd all homered in the next inning. Kennedy's two-run blast and the solo shots by Stehly and Todd pushed UT's lead to 11-6. 

The power surge helped Texas complete its second-largest comeback of the season. Last month, UT rallied from a six-run deficit in a 12-8 win over Oklahoma.

"I think the best teams, they always fight through adversity," Todd said. "Adversity is a big part of this game. Injuries, losses, you're always going to have it. The ones that can overcome adversity are the ones that are going to be the most successful."

Key play: With a runner aboard and one out in the sixth inning, Texas called Jared Southard out of the bullpen. Southard kept UT within three runs by striking out the next two batters. An exuberant celebration by Southard after his inning-ending strikeout of Caleb Upshaw led to extra-curricular jawing between the teams.

The pitcher of record, Southard also guided Texas through the seventh inning. With the bases loaded, he ended that threat by getting a groundout.

Notable number: 358. Todd's eighth-inning home run was recorded in his 358th — and perhaps final — at-bat at Disch-Falk Field. 

A sixth-year senior who signed with Augie Garrido, Todd has been at UT since the 2017 season. He gained an extra year of eligibility because of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Todd suffered a series of injuries while in college and he used a medical redshirt last season.

"He's battled through adversity every time, he's shown that he's strong mentally, strong emotionally to be able to come back and compete at a high level, too," former teammate Zach Zubia said. "I think that's something that goes unnoticed. He's competing at a very, very high level still every single time he comes back from injury. That's something that to me is really special and something you don't see in a lot of people."

Todd was among the 10 seniors who were honored ahead of Saturday's game.

Up next: Texas and No. 8 Oklahoma State (36-18, 15-9) will meet each other in the Big 12 Tournament's opening game Wednesday morning in Arlington. Earlier this season, the Longhorns were swept at home by Oklahoma State.