Texas 12, West Virginia 2: Run-ruled rout and a rival's rally lift Horns to Big 12 title
The box score will confirm that Texas did not score during the sixth inning on Saturday.
But as the Longhorns were batting, the announced crowd of 2,614 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field let out a loud round of applause. Several Texas players were seen celebrating as they ran out of the team's clubhouse.
Why the commotion? Well, nearly 700 miles away, Kansas State's Chris Ceballos had just beaten TCU with a walk-off home run in Manhattan, Kan.
The Wildcats' 11-8 triumph cleared a path for Texas to the Big 12 championship. And a little while later, the Longhorns did their part and closed out the regular season with a 12-2 beating that was called in the eighth inning.
No. 2 Texas (40-13, 17-7 Big 12) and No. 12 TCU (36-16, 17-7) will share the conference championship. UT last won the Big 12's biggest prize in 2018.
"To hoist the Big 12 trophy, holy cow, how about that," said Zach Zubia, the Longhorns' veteran first baseman. "These guys deserve it, this team deserves it."
Added outfielder Eric Kennedy: "That's exactly what we went out and set out to do from the beginning of the season. We were able to do that today."
West Virginia (23-25, 8-16) struck first on Saturday with a first-inning sacrifice fly. That lead, though, quickly evaporated due to a wild performance on the pitching mound.
Four different Mountaineers pitchers combined to throw 122 pitches in the first four innings. Only 54 of those went for strikes. A West Virginia pitcher hit the first Longhorns batter of the day and the Mountaineers had issued 10 walks by the end of the fourth. As Texas built a 9-1 lead, West Virginia allowed runs to score on three wild pitches and a bases-loaded walk.
Two of UT's eight hits during that stretch were a homer and a triple off the bat of Kennedy, who drove in four runs. Freshman Mitchell Daly went 3-for-3 with a walk over the first four innings.
"They did a nice job of coming out and popping us in the first and we knew we were going to be in a ballgame," UT coach David Pierce said. "When you look at our team, the base on ball is also a part of our ability. You take what you can."
Even with the large lead, the Longhorns seemed headed for a second-place finish in the Big 12 standings. However, Kansas State rallied from an 8-4 deficit in the ninth inning of its game.
The Longhorns were aware of what was going on in Manhattan. Kennedy — Texas' left fielder — said he was continually getting updates from the OccupyLF fan group. Knowing the TCU-Kansas State game was tied, Zubia figured out that the Wildcats had pulled off the upset when he heard cheers as he stood in the on-deck circle.
The end result in Manhattan made Ceballos an unlikely hero in Austin. Last month, he was the catalyst for a benches-clearing incident that led to the ejection of three UT starters.
"We owe him something, a signed jersey or something," Kennedy said.
Since Texas won its series with TCU, it will be the top seed in the Big 12 tournament; Texas will play either West Virginia or Kansas on Wednesday.
Around the bases: Pete Hansen was credited with the win; he allowed two hits over six innings. ... Texas honored Zubia, catcher DJ Petrinsky, outfielder Mike Antico and reliever Palmer Wenzel as part of its Senior Day activities. ... Texas tripled three times in the win. ... Pierce opened his postgame press conference by congratulating the UT women's tennis team on the national championship it won in Orlando.