Oklahoma State 5, Texas 4: Horns falter in ninth inning, eliminated from Big 12 Tournament
A weeklong trip to Oklahoma City ended a day earlier than the Texas Longhorns had hoped.
Doomed by a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning, Texas had its run at the Big 12 Tournament ended on Saturday by a 5-4 loss to Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys (35-16-1) advanced to face either TCU or Kansas State in Sunday's championship. Meanwhile, Texas (42-15) will start its preparation for the NCAA regionals.
"You don't come to a tournament just to win a couple games and leave. You want to win the whole thing," UT first baseman Zach Zubia said. "Once we learn from what we did in this game, wrong and right, it's gonna be full-steam ahead and ready to go, all hands on deck for the regional."
Over the first eight innings at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Texas and Oklahoma State battled to a 4-4 tie. The Cowboys then positioned themselves for a win in the ninth inning.
With two outs and two on, Christian Encarnacion-Strand drew a walk to load the bases. That brought Jake Thompson to the plate. Thompson, who had contributed a two-run single in the fifth inning, worked a full count before taking a low offering from reliever Aaron Nixon.
Having thrown 36 pitches against Oklahoma on Thursday, Nixon was pitching for the second time in three days. He ended up allowing a hit and a season-high two walks. A Oklahoma State runner also reached base on a catcher's interference call on DJ Petrinsky.
"We pushed him a little bit back-to-back days but I understand that," Texas coach David Pierce said. "He wants the ball and I like that."
A freshman from McAllen, Nixon still leads Texas with his eight saves. He had walked only three batters over his previous 14 appearances.
"We all trust Aaron Nixon with the game in his hands," Zubia said. "Just a bad day from him. We trust him. Moving on, we've got to have him having the ball, ready to go."
The Longhorns entered the Big 12 Tournament with a 2.93 ERA that ranked second nationally. Texas, however, did not have to test its pitching depth much over its first three games as starters Ty Madden, Tristan Stevens and Pete Hansen ate up 20 1/3 of the 27 innings played. Tanner Witt, Cole Quintanilla and Nixon took David Pierce's only calls to the bullpen.
Against Oklahoma State, two pitchers made their first-ever postseason appearances. Starting for Texas was Kolby Kubichek, who had been in the weekend rotation before a late-season swoon cost him his spot.
Kubichek hadn't recorded an out since a short start at Oklahoma State on April 25. Against Texas Tech on May 2, he was pulled after allowing the first four batters he faced to reach base. He pitched four innings against Texas Southern on May 11, but that game was rained out before it became official. And his scheduled start the following week was called off before Texas even took the field.
On Saturday, two of Kubichek's first five pitches resulted in a triple and a run-scoring double. He seemed to settled down after that shaky start, but his day ended when the Cowboys loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Texas freshman Jared Southard then allowed all three of the runners he inherited to score.
"(Kubichek) gave us four innings. I was hoping we'd get three to four out of him," Pierce said. "What I really like the best about Kolby's outing is he got punched early and he kept filling up the strike zone."
Oklahoma State held a 4-2 lead after it got done batting in the fifth. Texas tied the score in the inning's bottom half. Four innings later, Texas was unable to respond to Oklahoma State grabbing the lead. The Longhorns were retired in order in the bottom on the ninth.
Texas, ranked No. 2 in the country, must now wait until Monday to see who it will play in the NCAA Tournament. With a lofty RPI and a share of the Big 12's regular-season title in hand, Texas is in contention for a top-eight national seed. That would allow the Longhorns to host both a regional and a super regional.
Around the bases: Texas scored its runs on two Oklahoma State errors, a Silas Ardoin groundout and Douglas Hodo III's RBI double. ... Quintanilla pitched three innings of one-hit relief for Texas. ... While going 2-for-4, Zubia extended his on-base streak to 33 games. ... Texas struck out nine times. Over its four games in Oklahoma City, the Longhorns recorded 47 strikeouts.