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No. 8 Texas baseball stuns Oklahoma at Globe Life Field with big late rally

Danny Davis
Austin American-Statesman
Mitchell Daly reacts after a play during the game against Texas A&M at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday. The Longhorns lost to the Aggies but won their first Big 12 series of the season over Oklahoma with a 12-8 victory Sunday.

ARLINGTON — On Sunday, the Horns did not remain down.

An RBI single from Ivan Melendez provided Texas with the go-ahead run in a 12-8 win over rival Oklahoma. Texas trailed by a 7-1 score after six innings at Globe Life Field but rallied to secure its 21st win of the year.

With the victory, UT avoided going 1-3 in the week's four games against two rivals in Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The Longhorns instead secured the series victory over the Sooners and improved to 3-3 in Big 12 play.

"We're not gonna back down," Texas senior Austin Todd said. "We showed the grit and the fight that we have as a team. That's kind of what we practice every day."

Texas (21-9) had opened its weekend with a 7-1 win on Friday. The Sooners bounced back the next day with a 4-2 conquest.

In the rubber match, Oklahoma shortstop Peyton Graham guided the Sooners (16-10, 3-3) to what looked like an insurmountable advantage. Over the first three innings, Graham scored on a sacrifice bunt and a balk by UT pitcher Lucas Gordon. Graham added an RBI single in his third at-bat and later gave Oklahoma a 7-1 lead with a three-run home run in the sixth session.

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In the seventh inning, UT finally responded to its Red River rivals.

Texas sent nine batters to the plate in the inning. Six reached base. Two of those Longhorns — Dylan Campbell and Murphy Stehly — hit three-run homers.

"We knew that as long as we had one out that we still had time to win the game," Campbell said.

Noted Todd: "The mood in the dugout was just chip away, let's find a way to win. We had a big inning right there and tied it up."

Behind those home runs, Texas completed its largest comeback in four years. Back on March 30, 2018, Texas fell into a 10-3 hole at Kansas State. The Longhorns rallied to tie that game, but Kansas State eventually earned an 11-10 win. 

This time around, Texas wrote a happier ending. With the score still tied in the ninth, Douglas Hodo III got to second base when Oklahoma outfielders Tanner Tredaway and Diego Muniz collided while trying to run down his routine fly ball.

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That set the stage for Melendez. The UT slugger had been hitless in his eight at-bats in the Oklahoma series, but he singled home Hodo on the first pitch thrown by Javier Ramos.

Todd's third hit of the afternoon was a two-run single that gave Texas a 10-7 lead. Mitchell Daly then provided a two-run double to ensure that a Sooner setback had turned into a Texas triumph.

"That's a perfect example of Texas Fight," Texas coach David Pierce said. "It was incredible to watch this game the first four or five innings where it looked like we had no energy, it looked like we were being dominated on the mound, they manufactured runs. At the end of the day, our team is tough. They never gave in." 

Key play: With two outs in the fifth inning, Todd reached base when he chopped a baseball that Muniz couldn't handle at second base. The play was initially deemed an error, but the official scorer later ruled it as an infield single.

Not only was that hit the first of UT's afternoon, it was Todd's first since March 8. Todd had missed the previous 16 games with a shoulder injury. He returned to the Texas lineup on Sunday just as outfielder Eric Kennedy sat with an ailing hamstring.

A sixth-year senior who has lost portions of the 2018, 2021 and 2022 seasons to injuries, Todd was used as a designated hitter against the Sooners. Two weeks ago, Pierce hinted that Todd's days of playing the outfield may be over.

Notable number: 6. Even though Globe Life Field just opened during the 2020 MLB season, Sunday marked the sixth time that Texas has played at the ballpark in Arlington. The Longhorns are 2-4 in those games.

This likely won't be UT's last appearance at Globe Life Field this season. The home of the Texas Rangers will host the Big 12 Tournament next month.

Up next: After hitting the road for 13 of its 19 games in March and the first weekend in April, Texas will return to UFCU Disch-Falk Field for a five-game homestand. Up first is Tuesday's tussle with a UT-Rio Grande Valley program that Texas is 38-0 against.