Baseball: Trouble On And Off Field In Arlington

<B>ARLINGTON</B> -- If you believe in omens, take solace in this: the Horns' 2002 post-season run started with an opening round loss in the Big 12 Tournament at the Ballpark in Arlington to an eighth seed days after one of its star players was arrested.

That squad, of course, came back and swept through the field over the next four days to earn the league title, followed less than a month later by the school's fifth national title. Texas must now turn the same trick to pick up consecutive tourney title No. 3 after Wednesday night's 5-2 setback to the No. 8 seed Nebraska shortly after the arrest of two star players.

"Tonight before the game, I learned that a couple of players were involved with an incident off the field on Monday night and that incident -- I have to look into that and see what the specifics are and what the details are and talk with the administration and talk with the team about how we're going to deal with whatever it is we're dealing with because I'm not even sure what all that is," Augie Garrido said post-game. "There's something there but we'll take action at a time where I have a complete understanding of really what all this is about."

Dallas Morning News Big 12 baseball columnist Brian Davis has the full story on the arrest early Tuesday morning of Justin Simmons and J. Brent Cox. Click here

For Texas, the on-the-field results Wednesday were as bad as the off-the-field news.

The Texas pitchers, particularly surprise starter Sam LeCure, deserved better than a three-run defeat. Although the Huskers collected seven hits, only one of their five runs was earned, and four UT hurlers combined to strike out 16 Nebraska batters. But the Horns simply did not play like a championship club, either on defense (two extremely costly errors) or on offense (seven hits but eight men left on base, several unproductive outs and 11 Ks of their own).

Things fell apart for Texas and LeCure in the top of the fourth. LeCure certainly had a hand in his demise, giving up two hits, a walk and a hit batsman in the inning, but despite his troubles, the Horns should have escaped the frame unscathed. But 3B J.D. Reininger's bases loaded, two-out error -- his second E of the inning -- allowed Nebraska to plate the first two runs of the game, and two more unearned runs would score before LeCure could work out of the frame with a K.

"The game itself was a game in which we missed some opportunities from the offensive side to score runs with productive outs," the Texas head coach said. "... so it got down to the little things connected to the game. It was a fine margin and in the fourth inning, we gave them more than three outs and they capitalized on it. We rushed to their aid just a bit there and they capitalized on it so they were opportunistic within the framework of that inning."

Following the disastrous fourth, it appeared that LeCure decided to take his fate out of the hands of his fielders. The sophomore struck out the side in the fifth (with a 3-2 walk sandwiched in-between) and added another in the sixth, four of his career-high 10 Ks. He pitched six full, giving up five hits and four runs, none of them earned.

The bullpen gave up the only earned run of the game for the Huskers in the seventh after Kyle McCulloch, on for LeCure, gave up a leadoff triple to Jake Mullinax (on a ball that could have been caught deep in the right field gap by either CF Drew Stubbs or RF Hunter Harris, who collided as they converged on the ball). Mullinax scored when Buck Cody plunked Daniel Bruce with two outs and the bases loaded.

The Texas offense, dormant but for four scattered hits through the sixth, finally broke through the row of zeros on the line score on Stubbs' almost-outta-here two-run double to the top of the fence in deep left center that scored Robby Hudson, who opened the inning by legging out an infield single, and Ryan Russ, who singled to left as a pinch hitter for Harris.

Although Texas snapped his awesome 33-2/3 inning scoreless streak, Justin Pekarek (8-1) picked up his second win of the season over the Horns after reliever Mike Sillman shut down UT over the final 2-2/3 innings. Pekarek pitched three innings of scoreless relief in the Huskers' 4-3 win over Texas in Austin back on April 25 to earn that W, and his seven-hit, two-run performance Wednesday put Nebraska in the winner's bracket and the Horns in a must-win game Thursday at 1 p.m. vs. the Aggies. A&M lost to Oklahoma State 6-5 Wednesday. The Cowboys and the Huskers will square off for the upper hand in the 1-4-5-8 side of the bracket. In the other bracket, No. 7 seed Missouri upset No. 2 seed Oklahoma 9-5 and No. 6 seed Baylor slowed down streaking No. 3 seed Texas Tech 8-3. OSU was the only higher seeded team to win on the tournament's opening day.

"That's pretty reflective of the quality of the conference," Garrido said. "The quality of the conference can be measured by our defeat. We don't like being a springboard for someone else's success but that's just tough shit. It's called competitive athletics. Someone's going to go down, and tonight it was us."

"I don't think there's any concerns from this game that are on-going. The great thing about baseball is the sun comes up the next day and it's a whole new opportunity if in fact you can carry your confidence into the next opportunity, which we have. Typically we've responded to losing in a very positive way."

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