West Virginia 5, Texas 1: Longhorns take a 'quick smack in the face' in Big 12 opener
Four days after tying for the Big 12 regular season championship, the Texas Longhorns found out they still have something to prove to the conference.
Texas failed to break through against West Virginia starter Jackson Wolf in Wednesday night's 5-1 loss at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. The Mountaineers never trailed.
Texas (40-14), ranked No. 2 in the country and the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament, will play either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday. If the Longhorns lose, they'll head back to Austin. If they win, they'd need four more victories to win the tournament title.
The work that now needs to be done was not lost on Texas. In his postgame press conference, outfielder Mike Antico said that shortstop Trey Faltine had told the team that they now have an opportunity to prove why they're the best team in the Big 12.
As for Wednesday's loss, though?
"It's a quick smack in the face," Antico said. "It's tournament baseball, so something we've got to get used to. It's better it happens now than next weekend (in the NCAA Tournament)."
West Virginia, which had a walk-off win over Kansas in the play-in game, struck first against Texas — Hudson Byorick's solo home run off Texas ace Ty Madden in the second inning. The Mountaineers (25-25) added two more runs in the fifth.
Eric Kennedy got one run back for Texas with a sixth-inning homer, but the Longhorns then wasted their chances to rally.
In the seventh inning, Texas lost a baserunner when Cam Williams was picked off second base. The Longhorns later loaded the bases, but an infield pop-up from Kennedy ended the threat.
"It's not even acceptable. You can't get picked off in that situation," UT coach David Pierce said.
An inning later, Texas got Antico to second base with no outs. Wolf, however, struck out Mitchell Daly, Zach Zubia and Ivan Melendez with his 113th, 118th and 123rd pitches of the game. Daly, Zubia and Melendez have three of Texas' four best batting averages.
An all-conference honoree, Wolf received two insurance runs in the ninth inning. He wound up throwing 138 pitches in the first complete game of his four-year career. He allowed five hits and five walks but struck out seven.
"He pitched a hell of a game," Antico said. "I think if we adjust to him a little better, it would be a different story."
The win was Wolf's second over Texas in less than a week. Last Thursday, he was the pitcher of record in a 5-4 victory in Austin.
Like in that game, Madden was tagged with the loss. He gave up just three hits over 6 2/3 innings. He issued two walks and a West Virginia run was scored on his fifth-inning wild pitch.
Madden, the Big 12 pitcher of the year, has given up seven home runs this season, four by the Mountaineers.
Around the bases: The Big 12's No. 1 seed has lost its opener in four of the last six conference tournaments. ... Antico drew a walk and stole a base. He led the Big 12 in both statistical categories this season. ... A first-inning single extended Zubia's on-base streak to 30 games. ... West Virginia will face the winner of Wednesday night's showdown between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.