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West Virginia 5, Texas 4: Horns miss out on a chance to catch TCU in Big 12 title chase

"Obviously, it's a tough pill to swallow," first baseman Zach Zubia said of Thursday's loss to West Virginia.

In the race for the Big 12 championship, Texas was tripped up Thursday night by both instant replay and the West Virginia Mountaineers.

In the 5-4 loss to West Virginia at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the second-ranked Longhorns stranded three runners on third base, went 0-for-2 with the bases loaded and saw their game-tying run in the seventh inning overturned by replay.

The loss prevented Texas (38-13, 15-7) from tying No. 12 TCU (35-15, 16-6) atop the Big 12 standings. TCU, which dropped a 4-2 decision at Kansas State on Thursday, and Texas both have two games left in the regular season.

"Obviously, it's a tough pill to swallow," first baseman Zach Zubia said. "The great teams, they move on, they get better tomorrow, and they come out ready to play again. I would say this team is great."

Texas starter Ty Madden entered his 13th start of the season having given up only three homers in 75 1/3 innings. The Mountaineers homered three times off him.

Each homer — hit in the first, third and fifth innings — broke a tie. West Virginia scored four of its runs on those three swings. The fifth was plated on Victor Scott's sixth-inning double. 

The Longhorns scored on Cam Williams' two-run double, a solo homer from Mike Antico and a Mountaineers error. But it was a run that Texas didn't score that ended up being the focal point.

With Texas trailing by one run in the seventh inning, Williams doubled and advanced to third on an error. With one out, West Virginia went to its bullpen and brought in Jacob Watters.

Over 16 relief appearances and 19 2/3 innings, Watters had walked 26 batters. That wildness became immediately apparent to the Longhorns. 

Facing Douglas Hodo III, he sailed a pitch over his catcher. Williams broke for home, but the wayward baseball took a fortunate bounce off the backstop, and West Virginia catcher Matt McCormick got off a throw to Watters for a close play at the plate. Initially, Williams was called safe. But after a review that was called by the officiating crew, it was ruled that he did not touch the plate.

"I knew it was kind of close," UT coach David Pierce said. "If you call it safe on the field and it's not definitive in the review, and (West Virginia) had zero reviews left and (the crew) chose to review it, I just hope it was 100% definitive."

The overturned run wasn't the Longhorns' only missed opportunity. Trey Faltine struck out with the bases loaded in the third inning. Zubia lined into a double play with the bases full in the sixth. In the final frame, Texas had runners on second and third with two outs. Less than two months after he hit a walk-off double to beat Oklahoma, though, Hodo went down swinging against Watters for the last out.

"Sometimes the ball rolls your way; sometimes it doesn't," Zubia said. "At the same time, we've got to get better at execution with runners in scoring position."

Thursday was the first official game for UT since a 9-3 win at TCU on May 9. Texas was off last weekend for finals. Its previous two midweek games — one of which reached the fourth inning — were rained out.

Around the bases: Against West Virginia, Texas announced a season-high crowd of 2,521. Earlier in the day, it was announced that there would no longer be capacity restrictions for UT's home games. ... Zubia extended his on-base streak to 27 games with a third-inning single. ... Over his three innings of perfect relief, Tanner Witt struck out five batters. ... Jackson Wolf was credited with the win for West Virginia.