"Look, I've been in their place before. It's like you're knocking on the door but no one will answer. It's tough," Augie Garrido said, sympathetically. For Garrido and the Horns, it wasn't that long ago that the knock went unanswered.
Texas crawled to an 8-10 start in Big 12 play, but the Horns have now won seven of nine conference games and 10 of 12 overall. A post-season that at one time looked to be in jeopardy is now assured, and with a team that appears to be peaking.
Texas finished fifth in the league standings behind Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Missouri and will compete in the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 5 seed. The Horns open play in Oklahoma City at 9 a.m. versus No. 4 seed Mizzou, which took two of three from the Horns during the regular season. Texas will play the No. 1 seed Aggies on Thursday at 4 p.m. and close out round robin play on Saturday with another 9 a.m. tilt, this one versus No. 8 seed Oklahoma. If the Horns win their division, they will face the winner of the Oklahoma State/Nebraska/Baylor/Kansas State bracket on Sunday at 1 p.m.
That a Big 12 tourney title is even within the realm of realistic possibility for the Longhorns is largely due to a resurgent pitching staff and defense. Texas surrendered just seven runs to the Aggies over the three-game weekend series, including Sunday's tag-team performance from starter Kenn Kasparek and reliever Cole Green, and the Horns did not commit an error in the series.
"In this game you need hitting, pitching and luck and it's great to be peaking at the right time," Kyle Russell said post game.
Green (3-4) earned the win for the Horns after taking over for Kasparek and shutting out the Ags over the final two and two-thirds innings. Kasparek turned in his fourth straight strong start, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out six in his six and a third innings.
Russell Moldenhauer paced the Longhorn offense, going 3-for-4 with one run and two RBI. His two-run homer in the ninth was his first long ball of the season and gave Green a bit of breathing room facing the Aggies in their final at-bat.
"Real close game, ninth inning, rival team... there was no better time (for the home run)," Moldenhauer said.
A&M's shot at redemption came in the ninth. Green gave up back-to-back one-out singles to bring the tying run to the plate. The true freshman hurler, though, forced a fly ball out and then caught Aggie hitting star Kyle Colligan looking on a 2-2 pitch to seal the W and finalize the sweep.
"I don't care who it was. If you get swept at home, you get swept at home," said Colligan. "It's pretty frustrating the way the last couple of games have gone but we just have to go to Oklahoma City and play hard."
The Aggies head to OKC with a six-game losing streak but still managed to finish the regular season with their best record in nine years and with a regular season conference championship in hand.
"What I want our players to do is look at the big picture and the entire body of work. Sure it doesn't feel good the way we finished, but we still went 19-8, and that's pretty good. That's the way we are going to look at it," Aggie head Coach Rob Childress said. "We will get on the bus tomorrow and head to Oklahoma City, and I know every one of us will head up there expecting to play well and win the Big 12 Tournament."
Early in Sunday's game, it looked like the Aggies might not have to wait till the Big 12 Tournament to break their losing streak.
After two-and-a-half scoreless innings, A&M centerfielder Colligan pinged a double to center to pick up an RBI and put the first run on the board. Colligan made it the rest of the way around the bags on a single by teammate Blake Stouffer to give the Ags a 2-0 lead.
Texas quickly answered, though, when consecutive doubles by Travis Tucker and Jordan Danks lined up the two in scoring position with no outs in the fourth. Back-to-back sac flies cleared the bags and tied things up.
A two-out homer from Russell (his 15th on the season) gave the Horns a lead in the sixth, but not for long. Colligan drove a 1-2 pitch from Kasparek over the right field fence for a lead–off homer and brought the teams back neck-and-neck.
"The most impressive aspect of the game was the instant reaction," Longhorn head Coach Augie Garrido said. "They got two runs, we got two runs; we got a run, they got a run. There was an impressive flow to the game."
The Horns took the lead for good in the eighth when DH Michael Torres doubled to center field, advanced to third on a fielding error by Colligan and scored on a sac fly to left field from Tucker.
Junior Kyle Thebeau (5-4) got the loss. Thebeau gave up a hit and one unearned run in two innings of work.