By Matt Palmer
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The pendulum swung back and forth for mine innings, and when the final out was etched in stone it stopped on Texas – 10 ticks for UT, seven tocks for Oklahoma State.
"I tip my hat to Texas," said OSU coach Tom Holliday.
After dropping the first game of last year's Big 12 Tournament, the Longhorns executed with timely, perfectly placed bunts and patient hitting against Scott Baker.
"The short game obviously was a major factor in the outcome," Holliday said. "Sometimes you think a team that's a turf team wouldn't be as good on grass. But their bunting game was immaculate. We couldn't get to a couple of them, we knew they were coming and had bunt plays on, and it didn't matter — they were that good. If you stood up there and rolled it, you couldn't have rolled it in a better spot."
Despite throwing a normal 7.2 innings, Baker allowed a career-high 11 hits, 10 runs and only struck out four batters.
"It's unlucky for him that he got us when we needed to get hits," said UT right fielder Dustin Majewski. "He made good pitches when he had to, "
Both teams scored early and often. Texas got started in the bottom of the first off a double by Majewski and went up 2-0 after a sacrifice bunt by Sultemeier.
The Pokes began crossing home plate in the top of the second, and Lyndsey Simmons finished the scoring in that inning when he sent a line to right center for an RBI single to tie the game at two.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their game of catch-up got the best of them when the Longhorns scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth.
"We were pretty efficient and put more elements of offense together in this game than we have in awhile," said Texas coach Augie Garrido. "We got leadoff hitters on, we did a better job of managing our counts with 3-2 — we took ball four and we hit strike three. We capitalized and were opportunistic."
Three of those runs came after a hit by Majewski was thrown to third baseman Josh Fields in an attempt to tag out UT second baseman Tim Moss, but Moss was declared safe, much to the disdain and amazement of many on the field and in the stands.
Texas went through six pitchers, keeping OSU hitters off balance just enough to avoid another 10 a.m. start.
"We saw a lot of their guys in the series, and we knew they would throw a lot of strikes and not walk a lot of guys," said Cowboy left fielder Scott Kirby said. "I just went to the plate with the approach that I would see a lot of strikes and I was going swing and be aggressive."
Kirby ended as the only offensive standout for the Pokes, going 4-for-5, a career high and ties a Big 12 Tournament record for hits, and four RBI to keep it close.
"They responded right away," Garrido said of the OSU offense. "They battled hard, and it was a game that took a lot of our pitchers out of the bullpen and into the game to try to stop the momentum that they were trying to generate on offense."
On the brink of elimination, the Cowboys have to get up early and fight again at 10 a.m. against the seven-seeded Oklahoma Sooners at the Bricktown Ballpark. The Sooners took two games from the Pokes in Bricktown during the regular season.
"No one wants to play the
10 a.m. game, but somebody has to," Holliday said. "The most difficult thing is
getting your pitcher into a rhythm. I've always felt like it's a plus for
hitters and a negative for pitchers."
To keep any hope of the NCAA Tournament, a rested Cowboy pitching staff will need to be on target against a tough field.
"There isn't an easy team
in this tournament," Holliday said.
Offensive game notes:
- Garrido on last years' matchup with OSU in the Tourney in the elimination game, compared to what lies ahead for Texas.
Baker not in normal form in Cowboy loss
By Brandon InghamCowboy ace Scott Baker knew the challenge before him. He was fully aware the Longhorns had a potent offense and could execute the fundamentals of the game. He knows how tough the Big 12 baseball tournament really is. But few could have expected the statement the Texas bats made in this matchup.
Baker was in trouble from the get-go as he allowed two runs on four hits in the first and another run on two more hits in the second. He threw a hefty 45 pitches through only two innings. After a scoreless third, the Longhorns punished Baker by batting around in the fourth. When the smoke cleared, Texas had plated another five runs on five hits and led 8-3. A leadoff walk in the fifth came back to bite like they always do as the 'Horns pushed across one more in the inning. Baker settled down from there, but the damage had already been done. Bakers' lack of command cost him dearly as he fell behind 1-0 in the count to 60 percent of the batters he faced, which gave the hot Longhorn bats an unnecessary added advantage.
Not only was Baker abused by the Texas hitters, he was also tormented by their speedy base runners and ability to execute the bunt. Not only did the Longhorns use the safety squeeze efficiently, but they also stole five of seven attempted bases, tying the Big 12 Conference tourney record.
Despite only giving up one run over the final three innings, Bakers final line was none too impressive as he fell to 10-5 on the season. He worked 7 2/3 innings giving up 10 earned runs on 14 hits, both career highs, while walking two and striking out only four. Shane Hawk relieved Baker in the bottom of the eighth and retired the final hitter on a single pitch.
The Cowboys (34-23) square off with Bedlam rival Oklahoma at 10 a.m. tomorrow in an elimination game for both teams. OSU needs this win badly in an effort to gain a regional tournament bid after missing out last year. Whoever Coach Holliday puts on the mound must have a solid outing in order for the Pokes to live to play another day. It is vital that they avoid another slugfest, as the Cowboy bullpen, though rested, is not very deep.