Texas Baseball | Texas Longhorns: Review Big 12 Tournament, Preview NCAA Tournament

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Randy Maltz is a die-hard sports fan, with passion for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns. He is Founder & Editor of Silver and Blue Report and Hook 'em Report. He still idolizes Roger Staubach and Tom Landry.
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Brad’s Longhorns Corner
Texas Baseball | Texas Longhorns:  Big 12 Tournament, NCAA Tournament
By Brad Kellner – Columnist Silver and Blue Report & Hook ’em Report

Augie Garrido, Texas Longhorns, Longhorns, Texas Baseball

The Texas Longhorn baseball team entered the 2014 Big 12 Tournament as a lock to return to the NCAA tournament after missing the postseason last year for the first time since 1998.

Despite the fact that the Longhorns did not need to win the conference tournament to receive an NCAA tournament bid, the Horns still had a lot at stake this past week in Oklahoma City. A Big 12 tournament win would have likely given Texas the chance to host a NCAA regional.

Texas finished fifth in the Big 12 standings this season, and the Longhorns found themselves matched up with fourth-seeded Texas Tech to begin tournament play last Wednesday night. The Longhorns took two out three from the Red Raiders during the regular season, and Texas picked up right where it left off against Tech in the tournament.

The Horns jumped out to a commanding lead after putting up a five spot in the top half of the second inning. Ben Johnson’s two-run single and Mark Payton’s two-run double were the big blows that provided starting pitcher Lukas Schiraldi with more than enough run support. The junior from Austin artfully worked his way out of a few jams, allowing just one run over 5.1 innings en route to his team-high seventh win of the season. Following a Tech run in the bottom of the third, the Longhorns added a couple of runs in the fourth to extend its lead to 7-1. Texas went on to win the tournament opener 8-3 over the Red Raiders. The win over Texas Tech set up a matchup with the top-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday.

The Horns dropped two of three from the Cowboys in Austin during the regular season, and Texas had revenge on its mind going into Thursday’s matchup with the Pokes. While the bats took the headlines in the opening game, it was the pitching that took care of business against OSU. Juniors Dillon Peters and Parker French combined to shutout the Cowboys while allowing a total of five hits. Peters got the start and went five innings, allowing four hits and a walk. French, on the other hand, picked up his first save since the 2012 season, going four innings and allowing just one hit in relief. Freshman Kacy Clemens amounted for the offense, picking up all three RBI in a 3-0 Longhorn victory.

The win over the Cowboys gave the Horns a well-deserved day off on Friday before getting to play Oklahoma State again on Saturday. The double-elimination format of the tournament meant that Texas would get two chances to beat the Cowboys just one time. By winning its first two tournament games, Texas found itself in great position to make the Big 12 championship game on Sunday.

Despite getting two opportunities to knock off Oklahoma State, the Horns could not get it done. The Longhorns dropped the first game 3-1, spoiling a near-perfect pitching performance from starter Nathan Thornhill. The Cedar Park native went six scoreless innings and didn’t even allow a hit until the fifth. Some history was made

early in the game, when senior Mark Payton drew a walk in the first inning. The walk gave Payton a Big 12 record of 94 consecutive games reaching base at least once. The Longhorns took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning when Ben Johnson hit an infield single up the middle with the bases loaded. The Horns were unable to tack on any insurance runs, which proved costly in the late innings. Closer John Curtiss got the ball looking for a nine-out save. Curtiss pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning but ran into some serious trouble in the eighth. The Pokes put up three runs in the bottom of the inning and held on to beat Texas in game one.

The Longhorns got another chance to knock off Oklahoma State in a winner-take-all matchup with the Cowboys on Saturday afternoon. A two-and-a-half hour rain delay midway through the game pushed the contest into the late hours at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Horns trailed 3-1 going into the delay, but tied the game in the fourth inning, thanks to a two-run double by Mark Payton. Payton added an RBI single in the sixth to give Texas a 4-3 lead. After reliever Travis Duke pitched 2.2 scoreless innings for the Horns, Parker French came in looking for his second save of the tournament. After a scoreless seventh inning, the Cowboys put up three runs off of French in the eighth, and the Horns were unable to rally in the ninth. Bad base running proved costly for Texas in the game, and some late-game mental errors kept Texas out the Big 12 championship game.

The field of 64 teams was released yesterday (Monday), and the Longhorns find themselves as the number two seed in the Houston regional, hosted by the top-seeded Rice Owls. Texas opens NCAA tournament play against… Who else? The Texas A&M Aggies, who are the third seed in the regional. The Longhorns and Aggies renew their rivalry on the diamond this Friday at 3 at Reckling Park in Houston. The winner of that matchup will play the winner of Rice and fourth-seeded George Mason on Saturday. The regional is double-elimination, and the Longhorns will need to win three games to advance to the super regionals. The winner of the Houston regional will square off against the winner of the Baton Rogue regional which features the likes of LSU, Houston, Bryant and Southeastern Louisiana.

Texas Longhorns Baseball, Augie Garrido, Texas Longhorns, Longhorns

Credit: USA Today

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