Baseball: Horns To Go For Title vs. Ags

Texas enters the final week of the Big 12 season with a slim, half-game lead over second-place Oklahoma, leaving the Horns in control of their league title destiny in this weekend's series vs. A&M. UT hosts the Aggies on Friday night before contests in College Station on Saturday and Sunday. Three wins and Texas will be guaranteed its second regular season title in three years.

But the Horns aren't exactly streaking -- at least not in the right direction -- heading into the decisive series and the post-season. Texas (46-10) not only dropped a doubleheader Saturday in Austin to North Carolina State in its final non-conference action before the NCAA Tournament in three weeks, but the Horns are also just 5-5 in their last 10 games (against average to weak competition) after a blazing 41-5 start.

Although the Longhorn pitching staff generally has held up its end of the bargain through the current slump (see Saturday's doubleheader, where the Texas pitchers gave up just three total runs), the UT bats own a lowly .281 overall average, with the clutch hits so evident through the better part of the season largely absent in these late losses (again see Saturday's doubleheader, where the Horns garnered three hits in each game).

And Texas must face one of the league's top pitchers in A&M's Zach Jackson, a 6-5 lefty who is 10-3 on the season with a 3.02 ERA. A loss to Jackson, or in any other game vs. the Ags, and the Horns' title hopes could be in jeopardy depending on the results from OU's series vs. cratering Nebraska (which was swept this weekend by Baylor) and from Oklahoma State's final series at Mizzou.

(Last year, A&M's win in the final game of the regular season in Austin denied Texas a share of the Big 12 title with league champ Nebraska.)

Here are the standings heading into the final regular season weekend (Big 12 record and final opponent in parens):

1. Texas (17-6, vs. A&M)

2. Oklahoma (17-7, at NU)

3. Oklahoma State (15-8, at MU)

4. Tech (14-9, vs. BU)

5. Baylor (13-9, at TT)

6. A&M (13-10, vs. UT)

7. Nebraska (10-14, vs. OU)

8. Missouri (9-14, vs. OSU)

9. Kansas (4-19, at KSU)

10. Kansas State (4-20, vs. KU)

The top eight teams will square off in the league tourney starting a week from Wednesday at Ameriquest Field (formerly The Ballpark) in Arlington. Both the Jayhawks and Wildcats are mathematically eliminated, so Nos. 1-8 above will compete, although the seedings are still very much up in the air.

Worst-case scenario for the Horns is a three-seed, but even one win in three tries against A&M will ensure Texas of no worse than a two-seed.


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