It was a pitchers' duel throughout, with no team putting a single run on the board until a clutch seventh inning performance from the Longhorn line-up, grabbing three runs in the inning. Adrian Alaniz didn't lose any gas on his pitches and maintained the Texas lead until the end, striking out five in the process. The junior right-hander ran his record to 8-1 and holds a 1.75 ERA.
"Every outing I'm getting better," said Alaniz. "Mentally and physically I've prepared myself for each outing and today I had great command of all my pitches. My body's not fatigued as much after a big outing."
The Texas line-up showed promise throughout the game, but just couldn't get the runners home. In the bottom of the fourth with two outs on the board, Texas center fielder Nick Peoples doubled into right, moving Chais Fuller over to third base. But Travis Tucker grounded out to first and Texas still had nothing in the way of offense. In the fifth, Jordan Danks and Kyle Russell made their way onto base, but Texas catcher Preston Clark grounded out to short and it was the same story. Texas had runners on base seven of the eight full innings and more than one runner on base in six of the eight innings.
It was tough for the Longhorns to see so many runners left on base due to some impressive pitching from Oklahoma starter Taylor Heath, but Texas head coach Augie Garrido said there was an advantage to it as well.
"He (Heath) threw a lot more pitches and he had to fight his way out of innings," said Garrido. "It made the pitch count go up had took his edge off."
In the bottom of the seventh, Danks was on base again, but this time he would find his way home. Bradley Suttle smacked a double into left and Danks went running for home. Danks slid in just before Oklahoma left fielder Joe Dunigan's throw made it home and Texas was on the board with a 1-0 lead. The Sooners then intentionally walked Russell, the NCAA's homerun leader. Oklahoma head coach Sunny Galloway said it was an easy decision.
"You've got a base open and the guy's been on fire," said Galloway. "I think anybody in the country's going to do that."
It didn't end up helping, as Clark came to the plate and smashed a two-RBI double into left and Texas left the seventh leading 3-0. After the game, I asked Russell if his record-setting homerun pace has made opposing pitchers and managers fear him.
"They fear me? I don't know if they fear me. I don't know what it is," Russell told Inside Texas. "The fact that I have 17 homeruns might have something to do with it, but the great thing about it is, not really me, but it was me getting on first base and giving Preston (Clark) the opportunity to come through in the clutch and look what he did."
In the top of the eighth, Oklahoma put a runner on third with no outs due to the worst triple ever. Sooner DH Mike Gosse hit a ball high into right field and Russell stood with his feat planted, waiting for the ball to arrive. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, the Texas right fielder lost the ball in the sun and it landed behind him. Since there was no glove contact or throw, Gosse's advance to third was scored as a triple (a glaring omission in the baseball rulebook, by the way).
"Horrible," said Kyle Russell when I started to ask him about the today's sun. "I happens. There's nothing you can do about it. When I walked in (to the dugout), Coach Garrido was laughing at me. It's nothing too serious to be taken. There's no reason to hang your head about that.
Alaniz got catcher Jackson Williams to pop out to Tucker in foul territory and third baseman Jarod Freeman to ground out to short, but on the ground out, Gosse managed to make it home. Alaniz struck out Joseph Hughes to end the top half of the eighth with Texas holding a 3-1 lead.
With no runs scored in the bottom of the eight, Texas carried the two-run advantage into the ninth for the Sooners' last chance. But Oklahoma went three up, three down in the bottom of the ninth and the Longhorns got the win. Alaniz told Inside Texas he wasn't certain whether or not he was going to be sent out in the ninth, but he knew he wanted it.
"I wanted to finish and I wanted to finish strong for my teammates and the way they backed me up," said Alaniz.
Texas finishes the series with Oklahoma on Sunday at 1 p.m. and then hosts UTSA on Tuesday and 6:05 p.m. The Longhorns' next conference series is at the Kansas Jayhawks. The first game of that series is on Thursday, April 5th and the first pitch is slated for 7:00 p.m.