Texas Clinches Big 12 Title in Aggieland

Texas earned a share of the Big 12 Conference title with a dramatic 6-4 comeback Friday at Texas A&M. The No. 7 Horns plated two runs in their final at-bat, breaking a tie and ultimately rallying from a 4-1 deficit in front of a season-high 7,224 at Olsen Field.

It marks the first time in program history that Texas has won consecutive Big 12 titles. But it's the fourth conference championship in the past six years (2002, 2004, 2006, 2007) for Longhorn coach Augie Garrido.

Texas can clinch the outright conference title, as well as the top seed in next week's conference tournament, with another win as the three-game series now shifts to Austin. RHP Randy Boone (4-6) collected the victory with two innings of work while RHP Kyle Thebeau (2-5) shouldered the loss. The Horns are now 40-14 on the season and 19-6 in league play. No. 9 Texas A&M drops to 41-13 and 13-11 in Big 12 action. Both squads notched nine hits on the evening, but the Aggies were guilty of three errors -- including two critical miscues in the Longhorn ninth.

Aggie RHP Kyle Nicholson brought his league-leading 1.74 ERA to the showdown but was touched for four runs on six hits in 6-1/3 innings. He walked two and fanned five. The Horns went with LHP James Russell, who yielded four runs on eight hits in 6-2/3 innings, including two strikeouts and two walks. CF Nick Peoples had the hot bat, collecting two RBI and three hits in four at-bats.

Texas drew first blood. Kyle Russell crushed the first pitch he saw -- a high fast ball -- and earmarked it for the right field wall. The solo shot extended the junior's NCAA-leading streak to 27 round-trippers and spotted the Horns a quick 1-0 lead. It didn't last long. The Aggies put up a two-spot during their first at-bat courtesy of three singles and two stolen bases against LHP James Russell.

The Horns left two runners in scoring position when No. 9 hitter Travis Tucker went down swinging in the top of the second. After throwing 27 pitches in the opening frame, Russell retired the side in the Aggie second on just five pitches. But the Aggies mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the third when Russell surrendered a double and a homer to push the lead to 4-1.

Arguably, the momentum shifted to the Texas dugout in the fourth. That's when Russell issued a leadoff walk and a single to put two on with no outs. A potential 6-1 score might have been the difference-maker in Aggieland, but Russell forced two foul-outs to end the uprising.

Jordan Danks leadoff single got things started in the top of the sixth before Kyle Russell was issued a walk on four straight balls. Chance Wheeless reached on a fielders' choice to put runners on the corners. Bradley Suttle's RBI-double to left-center made it a 4-2 contest, but the Aggies' averted further damage when Wheeless was thrown out at the plate. The Horns struck again in their next at-bat, starting with Peoples' seeing-eye single to center with one down. Chais Fuller worked a 10-pitch at-bat into an RBI double to plate Peoples and Nicholson's night was over. LHP Kirkland Rivers took the mound and rung-up Tucker on a 3-2 fastball. But Danks slapped an 0-1 fastball to left-center to score Fuller and we were tied, 4-4, at the seventh-inning stretch.

With two down and one on in the home-half of the frame, LHP Jospeh Krebs took the mound to face lefty DH Luke Anders (who had gone 2-for-3 on the evening). Krebs fanned Anders on a 3-2 breaking ball to preserve the tie. PH Josh Prince tallied a two-out single in the Texas eighth before Thebeau came on to force a Preston Clark groundout. The Aggies stranded two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the inning after Boone issued a single and an intentional walk. But Boone fanned Parker Dalton on a 2-2 pitch to set up the decisive final frame.

The Aggies are statistically the Big 12's worst fielding team and it came back to haunt them. Substitute catcher Josh Stinson was guilty of two throwing errors while Thebeau was responsible for two wild pitches in the Longhorn ninth. Here's how it unfolded: Peoples reached on a lead-off single, stole second and advanced to third on Stinson's throwing error. With the go-ahead run 90 feet from home, Chais Fauller grounded out to SS. Tucker then walked to put runners on corners and then stole second. A wild pitch plated Peoples, the go-ahead run, as Tucker took third on another Stinson throwing error. It was now a 5-4 ballgame. Danks walked before advancing to second on another wild pitch. Russell drew an intentional walk before Chance Wheeless' sacrifice fly in foul territory along the left field line spotted Texas an insurance run.

Boone's 11 saves on the season leads the Big 12, but the senior was now in line for the win. After issuing a two-out walk. Boone fanned Anders' on a 2-2 pitch to keep championship hardware in Austin.

RHP Adrian Alaniz (13-2) will stake his claim as the league's winningest pitcher in 2007 when he takes the mound at 6:05 p.m. (CDT) Saturday.

Horns Digest Top Stories