Baseball: Horns rally to beat Bears

Baylor bested Texas ace <B>Justin Simmons</B> Saturday afternoon. <B>Ray Clark</B> and the Longhorn bats? Well, that's another story.

The Bears tagged Simmons for four runs, chasing the UT starter with no outs in the second, but Jesen Merle and later Ray Clark held Baylor relatively in check, keeping Texas within striking distance until the UT bats finally came alive in the Horns' hard fought 10-8 win. The victory moves Texas into Sunday's 1:00 p.m. regional championship game against the Bears, who remained alive by holding off Lamar 10-9 in an elimination game Saturday night at the Disch. The Horns, undefeated so far in regional play, need only to win one game Sunday to advance to next weekend's Super Regional round of play. Baylor must beat Texas twice Sunday to gain the championship.

"It was an important game from the standpoint of experience," Augie Garrido said. "We haven't had very many games where we've been able to win it from the offensive side."

The Horns' offense overcame 4-0 and 7-5 Baylor leads, gaining their first advantage at 5-4 with a three run top of the sixth and then grabbing the lead for good at 9-7 with a four run top of the seventh outburst. J.D. Reininger, who finished four of six with three RBI on the day, delivered the big blow in the sixth. During his two-on, two-out at-bat, the freshman said he wasn't looking for a home run -- "A solid base hit would have been OK," he said postgame -- but a home run is exactly what he delivered, launching a 0-2 Jared Theodorakos offering far over the left field wall to give Texas its first lead of the day.

That lead didn't last long. Baylor battled for three runs off of four UT pitchers in the bottom of the sixth to briefly move in front 7-5. DH Ross Bennett's single to right off of Clark brought in the final two runs of the inning, both charged to Brantley Jordan. Clark gave up a run of his own in the bottom of the seventh before retiring the final eight batters he faced.

For the Texas offense, the top of the seventh proved decisive. Dustin Majewski, pinch hitter Brandon Fahey and another pinch hitter Matt Rosenberg opened the inning with consecutive singles, with Majewski and Fahey scoring to tie the game at seven on a throwing error by the BU catcher on Rosenberg's beautiful bunt up the third base line. After a Kalani Napoleon pop out, Rosenberg was erased at home for the second out of the inning on a Tim Moss fielder's choice grounder, but Omar Quintanilla followed with a single to left and Reininger legged out an infield single to load the bases, setting the table for Jeff Ontiveros. The right-handed-swinging senior slugger fell behind in the count 1-2 before poking a Kyle Edens' pitch between the first and second basemen for a two-RBI, opposite-field single and a 9-7 Longhorn lead.

After Baylor's one-spot off of Clark in the bottom of the seventh, Texas added an insurance run in the top of the eighth when Napoleon dropped a bloop double into left field that scored Majewski from second.

Texas totaled 16 hits to Baylor's 10 for the game, and the Bears managed just two hits over the decisive, Clark-pitched final three innings.

"Ray came in and slammed the door on them," Garrido said.

"I just wanted to come in and give the hitters the chance to keep going," said Clark, now 5-4 on the year, after his second consecutive stellar performance. "I wanted to win that game more than any game I've ever wanted to win. . . . I didn't want to play three more games in two days. I want to win the rest of the games this season."

Early on Saturday afternoon, it looked like the Horns might need a Saturday night win just to extend their season to Sunday. Baylor took the lead on Simmons' first pitch in the bottom of the first when BU leadoff man Trey Webb homered to left and the Bears scored two more before Michael Griffin laced a ball to Moss, who tossed to SS Michael Hollimon to double off the runner at second to end the inning. After walking the leadoff man in the second, Simmons didn't get so lucky on the next sharply hit ball, a ground rule double by Baylor's No. 9 hitter Eric Errante. Frank Anderson quickly made the move to remove the obviously ineffective Simmons.

"He got hit hard today," the Texas head coach said of Simmons, who has a loss and two no decisions in his last three starts after picking up a W in his first 14 appearances of the season. "It was a tough day on a personal basis but his teammates rescued him."

"I don't know that the players felt stunned by it but I saw the runs on the board and it stunned me," said Garrido of the Bears' early success against Simmons. "I think (overcoming that) was what was special about the game today."

One Texas win Sunday will also be quite special, sending Texas (now 50-14) another step closer to Omaha, but Garrido, who coached the '00 Longhorn team out of the loser's bracket to a regional victory at Arizona State, understands the unpredictable nature of these tourneys. "We've won from every position so I know anyone can win this," he said. "This tournament is not over."

The Horns hope that'll come sometime around 4:00 p.m. Sunday.

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