Mississippi State 4, Texas 3: Longhorns' season ends in College World Series
OMAHA, Neb. — In the end, Texas' baseball season finished with hugs and heartbreak.
Tanner Leggett's walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted Mississippi State to a 4-3 win over Texas on Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Park. The win advanced the Bulldogs to the College World Series' best-of-three final against Vanderbilt.
Meanwhile, Texas ends its season with a 50-17 record. The Longhorns were attempting to reach the College World Series finale for the first time since 2009.
"Your season can be made in a split-second and it can be broken in a split-second," Texas outfielder Mike Antico said. "Tonight it was broken."
Through eight innings, Texas and Mississippi State (48-17) had battled to a 3-3 tie. But with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Kellum Clark was hit by a two-strike pitch from Texas reliever Cole Quintanilla. Clark was replaced by pinch-runner Brayland Skinner, who promptly stole second base. He then raced home when Leggett laced a 1-1 pitch into left field.
The at-bat was only Leggett's second this month. He entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement after Mississippi State pinch-hit for starting shortstop Lane Forsythe.
"(Quintanilla) hung one up and I put a good swing on it," Leggett said. "Wasn't a bad pitch, though. It was a good pitch. I was just locked in."
While the Bulldogs celebrated Leggett's hit, the Longhorns mourned the end of their season. Quintanilla embraced Silas Ardoin, his catcher. Behind them, the Texas infielders consoled each other. Since Mississippi State's on-field party had spilled into the outfield, Antico and Eric Kennedy congratulated some of the victors.
Texas players stayed on the field for nearly 50 minutes. Zach Zubia, a fifth-year player, was spotted scooping up a few handfuls of dirt by first base, the position he played this season. Quintanilla did the same on the pitcher's mound. Third baseman Cam Williams took his phone out to film one last walk around the infield. Pitcher Ty Madden, a likely first-round pick in next month's draft, obliged when asked by a few fans for his autograph.
"The only thing that I'm disappointed in is this team will no longer be this team anymore," Texas coach David Pierce said. "It's the most incredible team I've ever been a part of and I've won a national championship and been (to Omaha) six times."
Texas had a chance to break the tie before Mississippi State did, though. In the top of the ninth, pinch-runner Dylan Campbell got to second base with one out.
But the Longhorns could not come up with their fifth hit of the evening. Flyouts by Williams and Douglas Hodo III ended the threat.
"We had a man on second in the top of the ninth. They had a man on second in the bottom of the ninth," Antico said. "They got it done and we didn't, and the season's over that quick. You blink your eyes and it's over."
The final loss of UT's season went on Quintanilla's record. After getting Texas out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth, he allowed only two hits. The 3 1/3 innings he pitched were a season high. So were his 49 pitches.
Texas had relievers warming up during various parts of Quintanilla's outing, but Pierce thought his "pitches were sharp." After the eighth inning, Pierce told pitching coach Sean Allen that he wanted to stick with the right-hander from Cedar Park.
"I was more concerned about emptying the tank every inning and not how tired or how fresh I felt," Quintanilla said. "Just what I had and what I was going to give, and if it was 70%, I was going to give 100% of that 70%."
Texas got onto the scoreboard first on Williams' two-run homer in the second inning. In the third and fifth innings, Mississippi State cashed in on leadoff doubles. Texas did the same in the fifth. An inning later, Bulldogs catcher Logan Tanner's double — the fifth double of the game — tied the game 3-3 and chased Texas starter Tristan Stevens.
Around the bases: Texas went 1-3 against Mississippi State this season. The Longhorns' season both began and ended with losses to the Bulldogs. ... Williams was responsible for two of UT's four hits. ... Stevens allowed nine hits and three runs over his five innings. Mississippi State's Will Bednar, who struck out 15 Longhorns in their CWS opener, had seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings on Saturday. ... Texas turned three double plays.