Baseball: Horns, Simmons drop Tourney opener

ARLINGTON -- Before the Horns took the field at The Ballpark in Arlington for their opening game in the Big 12 Tournament vs. the Aggies, they received the trophy signifying their regular season league championship.

Over the next three hours, A&M made UT's path to hoisting the tournament championship trophy a tough one with an 8-4 win, sending the Horns (43-14) to the loser's bracket and a 1 p.m. elimination game Thursday afternoon vs. Oklahoma State.

"We didn't come out not ready to play or complacent," Augie Garrido said postgame. "There was nothing wrong with the effort tonight, (A&M) was just really good."

The eight-seeded and typically light-hitting Aggies jumped on top-seeded Texas and formerly undefeated Justin Simmons from the get-go, plating three in the first on a Travis Wong three-run shot that just cleared the left field wall at the 354 sign and then chasing Simmons in the third with three hits and two more runs. Simmons, who had won all 14 of his previous starts, lasted just two-and-two-thirds innings, surrendering seven hits and five runs, all earned. A&M, which totaled 15 hits on the evening, added a single run in the fourth and two more in the eighth to push its final scoreboard tally to eight.

"It was just one of those days," Simmons said. "I didn't have my best stuff but at the same time, A&M was swinging the bat really well."

After lighting the board in the second on a Dustin Majewski two-run blast to the upper deck in deep right center, Texas attempted to get Simmons off the hook in the bottom of the sixth, cutting A&M's lead to 6-4 on a J.D. Reininger RBI triple and a Jeff Ontiveros sac fly and then loading the bases with just one out in the inning, but Eric Sultemeier grounded into a fielder's choice that cut down a run at the plate and Kalani Napoleon struck out on a chest high check swing to end the threat. After giving up 11 hits through six innings, Aggie starter Kyle Parcus handcuffed the Horns over the final three frames, retiring nine straight to wrap up the complete game win.

"We had a chance to change the momentum in the sixth," the Texas head coach said. "A big hit there would have made it a different game."

Even without a big hit, the sixth inning comeback may have brought the Horns' to within one (or better) but for a blown call by the home plate umpire in the bottom of the fifth. Majewski led off the inning with a double down the left field line and three batters later, Tim Moss delivered a single to right that brought Majewski home from second. The ump, though, punched out Majewski although replays showed that the UT right fielder clearly had his foot on home before the A&M catcher applied the tag.

Regardless, the Horns, by spotting the recently hapless Aggies an early multi-run lead, simply put themselves in the tough spot of playing catch-up for the rest of the night. Sadly, for both Simmons' potential perfect season and the team's tourney title hopes, they never did.

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