Horns Headed to Big 12 Title Game

Shortstop David Hernandez stroked a two-out walk-off shot up the middle to propel the Horns to an 11-10 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. Despite an early lead being squandered by the Longhorn bullpen, a three-run rally in the ninth gave Texas the ‘W' and, with Missouri's loss to Texas A&M Saturday afternoon, earned the Horns a spot in Sunday's Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Box Score

After Thursday's win over Texas A&M, the Horns were set up for a Texas two-step to carry them to the championship game at Bricktown. Step one: topple the Sooners. Check. In an irony surely lost on no one, step two was an Aggie victory over Missouri. And the Aggies delivered, snapping an eight-game losing streak to finish the dance and bump the Horns into the championship match-up.

Texas will face the winner of the other pool, which featured four 1-1 teams heading into Saturday evening action.

With the win, the Horns have won eight of 10, and have solidified a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The question remains: has Texas done enough over the season's final weeks to host a Regional at the Disch? The answer to that question won't come until Sunday afternoon when the NCAA announces the 16 Regional hosts.

Before that happens, the Horns will play for the Big 12 Tournament title. That looked unlikely heading into the bottom of the ninth on Saturday vs. the Sooners. Texas trailed 10-8 after leading 8-7 heading into the top of inning.

The Horns' last stand started off with consecutive walks to Jordan Danks and right fielder Kyle Russell. A single to right field by Brandon Belt plated Danks and moved Russell to third. With two outs, Russell came home on a wild pitch to tie things up and Belt, the winning run, moved to second. David Hernandez got two down in the count before single scored Belt to put the Horns on top of the Sooners for the final time.

"It was a game of back and forth with the score and both teams played at the same level, a lot of the things that happened, happened to both teams," said Texas head Coach Augie Garrido. "At the same time I thought the game was extremely important from this point of view: we haven't won a game like that the entire season and it was more important for us. We've had our problems with the pitchers feeling like they let the hitters down, and the hitters feeling like they let pitchers down."

The Longhorns went seven-deep in the bullpen. Keith Shinaberry (2-1) got the win for cutting the Sooners off at the plate in the ninth. Kenn Kasparek, who started for the Horns, was Texas' only pitcher to stick around for a full inning. He gave up six hits and four runs, all earned, in his six-inning performance. Sooner closer Chase Anderson (5-4) was saddled with Oklahoma's season-ending loss after giving up two hits and a run in bottom of the ninth.

Texas struck early and put up twin runs in the first and third innings before the Sooners got on the board in the fourth with a sacrifice grounder to first. The Horns answered with two more runs in the home half of the fourth to inflate their cushion to five runs at 6-1.

Texas' advantage carried until Sooner bats got hot in the seventh. Kasparek, Cole Green, and Brandon Workman combined to give up six hits, three walks and six runs, allowing the Sooners to take a 7-6 lead before Russell gunned down Oklahoma's Aaron Baker at the plate to end the Sooner rally.

Despite a collapse on the mound, the Horns maintained consistency at the plate. Texas tied things up in the home half of the seventh and took the lead back in the eighth. Catcher Cameron Rupp drew a walk and advanced around the bags on a throwing error, a botched pickoff attempt and a single by second baseman Travis Tucker to bring his team back in front.

Another uprising from the Sooners in their last chance at bat put them back in front. Belt took to the mound long enough to give up a lead-off double followed by a bunt single to put two on with no outs. An error by Hernandez on a fielder's choice plated Oklahoma's tying run. Stayton Thomas and Kyle Walker combined for no hits and the Sooners' final two runs before Keith Shinaberry came in to shut things down.

"I hit pretty good and didn't pitch very good at all," Belt said. "There's been a lot of players picking each other up, and when I was pitching I was trying to finish the game off. But it really didn't go according to plan."

Despite his performance at the mound, Belt paced the offense, going 3-for-4 with one run and three RBI. Travis Tucker was the only player to go yard with a two-run ping to left field.

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