Pokes drop opening tourney game

After facing him once before, the Horns had Scott Baker figured out, and pounded the Cowboy ace for 14 hits and 10 runs. The OSU bats weren't enough to take over the game, and OSU fell into the losers bracket of the 2003 Big 12 Tournament, which brings on a 10 a.m. Thursday Bedlam rematch.

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:


By Brandi Ball

  •  Oklahoma State's Scott Kirby went 4-for-5 with four RBI and one run scored in the opening game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament. Kirby upped his batting average .319 after tying the tournament record for four hits in a game. Texas' Dustin Majewski was the last to accomplish the feat, doing so in a perfect performance last year. Kirby's third hit of the game tied the score at three, when he knocked in Mario Matulich in the fourth inning.

  • Kirby continued where he left off from his last appearance at SBC Bricktown Ballpark. Against Oklahoma on April 27, Kirby nailed a clutch double to right field in the ninth, and scored in the last-ditch rally attempt.

  • The 17 runs combined by both teams ties a first game tournament record. (The 2000 Oklahoma-Oklahoma State matchup and the 2001 Texas-Texas A&M game)

  • Jose Virgil went 3-for-5 and extended his hitting streak to 20 games, and has hit safely in 37 of the Cowboys last 38 games.

  • The Cowboys left 11 runners stranded on base, while the Longhorns left a mere four.

  • Six of the nine Texas hitters batted at least .500 against OSU starting pitcher Scott Baker.

    Quotes:

  • "We had to capitalize on our pitching efforts because they (OSU) did such a good job of attacking us offensively," UT head coach Augie Garrido said. "Momentum of the pitch count is key and we controlled the momentum when he had to. Their timely hits could have really dictated the outcome of the game, but we tried our best to not let that happen."

  • "I don't know much about the past, and I know nothing about the future,"
    - Garrido on last years' matchup with OSU in the Tourney in the elimination game, compared to what lies ahead for Texas.


  • "Two-out base hits control a game," said OSU coach Tom Holliday. "They did a good job of taking advantage of those opportunities. I have a guy here that is an outstanding pitcher (Baker), and getting that many hits on him isn't gonna happen often. Texas did a great job of capitalizing on the hits they got."


      Pitching notes:

      Baker not in normal form in Cowboy loss

      By Brandon Ingham

      Cowboy 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. 


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