OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Texas baseball team was one loss away from elimination for three straight games at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament; the Horns' run ended Saturday afternoon in a 5-4 loss to Oklahoma State at Bricktown Ballpark in a game decided on the final at-bat.
The victory propelled Oklahoma State (35-16-1) into the Big 12 Championship game, while Texas (42-15) will await its NCAA Tournament seeding Monday.
The Longhorns, having already played three games in Oklahoma City by Saturday afternoon, were short on starting pitching. Head coach David Pierce made it clear Friday that someone other than the three weekend starters was going to have to step up in Saturday's contest against the Cowboys.
That turned out to be righthander Kolby Kubichek, who had been moved to a midweek starting role following a disasterous outing April 25 against Oklahoma State. While he kept Texas in Saturday's game, he failed to tame the Cowboys' bats, allowing four runs over 4-1/3 innings of work. The first of those runs came in the top of the first, on a double from Oklahoma State catcher Max Hewitt.
"The good thing is he settled in and gave us four good innings," Pierce said of Kubichek. "We were hoping we'd get at least that from him. He did a nice job there."
Texas began the game with just two hits over the first three innings, but responded in the fourth, taking its only lead of the contest, 2-1. After first baseman Zach Zubia and second baseman Murphy Stehly went down swinging to open the frame, third baseman Cam Williams singled through the left side of the infield. He then stole second, and came around to score as right fielder Douglas Hodo connected on his second RBI double within the last 24 hours.
Shortstop Trey Faltine followed with a single, as Hodo advanced to third, and then home on an error charged to Oklahoma State second baseman Marcus Brown.
Holding a narrow 2-1 lead, the floodgates opened in the fifth, as Oklahoma State scored three runs off Kubichek. In a unique scenario, OSU third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand struck out, but Kubichek's pitch was wild and allowed center fielder Caeden Trenkle to score from third. First baseman Jake Thompson drove in Hewitt and Trenkle in the following at-bat on a single to right field, giving the Cowboys a 4-2 advantage.
Texas pushed two across in the bottom of the fifth, with left fielder Dylan Campbell crossing the plate first on a fielder's choice off the bat of second baseman Mitchell Daly. The ball stayed in the infield once again as the Horns' tallied their second run of the inning, with catcher Silas Ardoin's groundout allowing Antico to score. Those runs knotted the score at 4-4; the score remained unchanged until the ninth inning.
Texas reliever Aaron Nixon issued a bases-loaded walk to Thompson, and picked up a loss in the process to drop to 3-3 on the year. Nixon threw one inning, and surrendered only one hit, along with the walk, and an earned run, but his lone earned run proved to be the difference.
Statistically, Texas had its best offensive performance of the week, tallying eight hits from seven of the Longhorns' nine starters. Zubia was the only Texas batter with a multi-hit performance, going 2-for-4. One major absence from the lineup was designated hitter Ivan Melendez, who was fatigued, according to Pierce after playing three games in three days.
There is a good chance the Longhorns will head into NCAA Tournament play as a regional host. While his team came up short in Oklahoma City, Pierce said the conference tournament prepared his team well for what awaits the Longhorns.
"It's still a real exciting time for our team," Pierce said. "We're in a great spot and that's because our kids have played well all year. I thought the environment in the tournament was really good for this team."