Texas Collapses In Seventh, Must Win Two For Omaha

Leading 4-2 after six innings, Longhorn Pitching Coach Tom Holliday sent today's starter Randy Boone to the bench, left middle reliever Clayton Stewart in the bullpen, and sent J. Brent Cox to the mound. That decision, along with a defensive collapse by Cox in the decisive seventh, has the Horns one loss from Tournament elimination.

The Texas closer gave up a single to leadoff hitter Barry Gunther and then committed errors -- one a fielding error and one a throwing error -- on back-to-back bunts by the Rebels, allowing Ole Miss to tie the game at four with nobody out. And after a four-pitch walk, a double steal and an intentional walk, Mark Wright delivered the final blow, a two-run single to right to give the home team its final margin of victory at 6-4.

With the win, Ole Miss (48-18) is one win from Omaha. The Horns (49-16), on the other hand, must win two straight to earn their fourth consecutive trip to the College World Series. The two teams square off again, in an elimination game for Texas, at 5 p.m. Sunday night in Oxford. Redshirt freshman rightie Adrian Alaniz (5-3, 2.89 ERA) is expected to take the hill for the Horns while the Rebs will counter with lefty Matt Maloney (8-2, 3.14 ERA).

"The game was decided with bunting," Augie Garrido said post-game. "They profited from it. We have bunted a lot this year, over 100 times, they haven’t done that much. Baseball is a game of unexpected. They executed well and placed the bunts in great places. Besides that it was an even game. Both teams hit pretty well, pitched pretty well and fielded pretty well."

As Garrido said, bunting (and UT's fielding of those bunts) certainly played a part in the outcome, but Holliday's pitching decision in the seventh inning of game one played an equally important role and may have cost Texas the advantage in this series. After Saturday night's deluge that led to an overnight suspension, the game picked up in the fourth inning with the Horns owning a 2-0 advantage, and Boone, with the help of the Longhorn bats, kept that two-run margin through his three innings of work, getting yanked for Cox to start the seventh despite a 4-2 lead.

"We had a two-run lead," Garrido said when asked about the decision to bring in Cox. "We were trying to protect the lead. We knew they (Ole Miss) were capable of regaining the lead and the momentum."

But the decision is especially puzzling given the circumstances. Boone had struggled in the sixth, surrendering a solo homer to Ole Miss slugger Brian Pettway, a hard hit single to right and a walk, but he got out of the inning with a couple of groundouts. And Clayton Stewart, along with his 9-0 record and 3.04 ERA, was in the bullpen ready to go. But Holliday went with Cox, who would have to go three innings to close out the opener and then possibility be ready to pitch again in several hours (and/or on Monday).

Talented arms can't help win if they stay in the bullpen.

Sunday's action got off to an inauspicious start for the Horns. Fourth inning leadoff batter Will Crouch walked, was sacrificed to second and, after a David Maroul K, was on his way to padding the Longhorn lead on what should have been a Robby Hudson RBI single, but Crouch tripped rounding third and was stranded on third when Nick Peoples grounded out to third.

The Horns, though, broke through in the top of the fifth, when Carson Kainer brought home Seth Johnston and Chance Wheeless with a single to right. Texas led 4-1.

Mississippi answered in the bottom of the sixth with Pettway's long ball to cut the UT advantage to 4-2.

Seth Johnston almost got it back in the top of the seventh when he sent a towering shot deep to left, but Ole Miss LF Wright leaped and snagged the Texas shortstop's blast off the top of the wall. That set the stage for the disastrous bottom of the inning.

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