Baseball

Best of the Big 12: Texas drops TCU to claim its first conference title since 2011

Next up: the Big 12 Tournament vs. Kansas.

Posted May 19th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Clemens' 19th homer, Fields' pitching boost Longhorns.
  • Five-run fourth inning powers Texas.
  • Fields' strong relief work bails out Henley.

One down and four to go.

Kody Clemens hit his 19th home run, Kamron Fields picked up his first victory, and Texas scored five times in the fourth inning of a 7-3 win over TCU on Saturday. With the victory at UFCU Disch-Falk Field and Oklahoma State’s 7-3 loss to Texas Tech, UT claimed the Big 12’s outright title.

It was the Longhorns’ first conference championship since 2011.

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After the game, both head coach David Pierce and senior Jake McKenzie said the conference championship was one of five titles the Longhorns were trying to win. What’s left? Being the last team standing at the Big 12’s tournament, in the regional and super regional rounds, and at the College World Series.

“That’s our goal from the start of the year is to win five championships,” McKenzie said. “We’re one down; we’ve got four to go. We’ve got a chance at all of them.”

In Saturday’s first inning, Clemens gave UT a quick edge with a two-run home run. It was his third two-run homer of the three-game series, the second of which was a walk-off blast Friday night. TCU, though, cut that lead in half with Conner Shepherd’s solo shot in the third inning.

TCU centerfielder Johnny Rizer tries to catch a hit by Masen Hibbeler in the fourth inning at Disch-Falk Field on May 19, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The game was then decided during an action-packed fourth inning.

With two outs in the top of the inning, Shepherd singled in Connor Wanhanen for his second RBI. Texas starting pitcher Blair Henley, who beat TCU at last year’s Big 12 Tournament, also issued his sixth walk of the game in the inning and was removed.

In his first appearance since May 1, Fields entered with two aboard. He induced a pop-up after giving up a walk to load the bases.

The UT offense then got to work. The Longhorns led off with Masen Hibbeler’s double, and runs were plated on a Ryan Reynolds single and a DJ Petrinsky triple. Hits from David Hamilton and Duke Ellis drove in three more runs, and Texas exited the at-bat with a five-run advantage.

“Putting up that five-spot kind of silenced TCU’s dugout,” Clemens said. “It was really good for us to put those runs up so then the guys on the mound didn’t have to worry as much.”

Said McKenzie: “It was the second time through the order against (TCU starter Haylen Green), so we saw it well.”

Fields threw 37 pitches over 3 1/3 innings. He allowed two hits and two walks, but no Horned Frog scored on his watch.

“I really was trying to go out there and win it for the team,” Fields said. “I knew I had to do a job, which was pick up Blair Henley. That’s exactly what I wanted to do and exactly what I did.”

Texas (37-18, 17-7) now shifts its attention to the postseason and the prospects of hosting a regional. UT will open play in the Big 12 Tournament against Kansas at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Oklahoma City’s Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

Around the bases: Before the game, Texas honored five players on its senior day. … Texas turned its 62nd and 63rd double plays of the season. … Hamilton was responsible for three of UT’s 11 hits. … TCU dropped to 30-22 and will be the sixth seed in the Big 12 Tournament.

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