After crushing Kansas State 10-3 and 14-3 in the first two games of their three-game weekend set, Texas got runs in the first three innings of Sunday's contest, including a homerun from Bradley Suttle, and it looked as if the third game of the series would be as easy as the first two. But things very quickly turned for the worse as the Longhorns and Wildcats were in a dogfight the rest of the way, ending with an 11-9 Texas loss.
"It really does reveal the thin veneer of confidence and the parody that exists," said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. "When you can take the first two games that we played and see where that can go in 24 hours. It puts you on the same roller coaster coaches are on."
Joeseph Krebs started the game for Texas and did well through the first four innings, but in the fifth Kansas State load the bases on the senior left-hander. Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson went to the mound, but ultimately decided that Krebs should stay in the game. The question as to whether or not Krebs should have remained was answered with a grand slam from Kansas State's Rob Vaughn. It was four runs of an uncharacteristic 11 for the Texas pitching staff, but Johnson said after the game that there'd be days like this.
"You can't control what they (your opponents) do with the ball," said Johnson. "The balls found holes today and that's baseball. Some days they hit balls right at people. All you can control is hitting your targets and they (our pitchers) did that. Sometimes that happens."
Another two runs for Kansas State in the inning, this time on Keith Shinaberry who replaced Krebs, put the score at 6-3 Kansas State. But Texas didn't roll over, battling back in the bottom half of the fifth frame.
Chance Wheeless and Jordan Danks, batting in the proper order this time (see: Saturday's game), got things going for Texas, both finding their way onto base. Bradley Suttle was up next and the Texas third-baseman drew a walk, loading the bases for Texas' leader in homeruns, Kyle Russell. But Texas got its first run of the inning in a very unceremonious fashion as Russell was hit by a pitch, bringing home Wheeless.
The big bat of the inning was not held by Russell. Instead, the firepower was brought by catcher Preston Clark. Clark fought to a full count and then finally smashed a three-run triple to center to score all three runners on base and give Texas a 7-6 lead. A SAC fly by SS Josh Prince and a SAC bunt by 2B Travis Tucker scored another two for the Horns. Texas retook the lead with six runs in the bottom half of the fifth. All-in-all Texas and Kansas State combined to score 11 runs in the fifth inning. Garrido said the fifth was a good indication that determination wasn't a problem for his team on Sunday.
"We didn't back off any situation. It wasn't a problem connected to attitude. If it's a problem connected to attitude, you've got a problem," said Garrido.
Kansas State showed it wasn't ready to concede either, putting up another pair of runs in the top of the seventh, this time on Texas closer Randy Boone. No matter what combination of pitchers Texas threw at the Wildcats, they kept finding ways to score.
"They came out, they wanted this game bad and they didn't want to get swept," said Clark.
Texas gave up another run in the top of the eighth off a throwing error from Tucker, tying the game at 9, and Boone was replaced by pitcher Austin Wood. With one out and two runners on, Wood got the strikeout, but the runner at first, Vaughn, tried to steal second. Prince and Tucker both stopped, thinking the other would catch the ball. The ball, instead, careened into center field, Eddie Vasquez scored and the inning continued. The problems for Texas continued to compound as Drew Biery hit an RBI single to left field to give the Wildcats an 11-9 lead.
With the Longhorns unable to get any runs in the bottom half of the inning, the end of the eighth was the first time in the entire weekend series that an inning ended with Texas trailing.
The Longhorns didn't surrender any more runs in the top of the ninth, which meant Texas trailed by two going into the bottom of the ninth with the bottom of the order coming up. Garrido sent in pinch hitter Clint Stubbs to start things off for Texas. Stubbs got solid iron and sent the pitch flying for the right field wall. Unfortunately for Stubbs the wind was blowing the wrong way and Kansas State right fielder Jordan Cruz was able to chase the fly ball down for the first out. Nick Peoples was up next but pitcher Daniel Edwards stuck out the Texas center fielder. Tucker flied out to center and the game was over.
Texas surrendered 17 hits in the game and Garrido said the Wildcats' fight and determination impressed him.
"We could have taken them out if they didn't have the right character. They really hung in there," said Garrido.
It's the Longhorns' first loss in conference play, but Clark said his team isn't focused on where it sits in the standings.
"We don't look at that right now. We look at each series at a time, but this loss hurts," said Clark.
Texas remains in Austin and will take on the Rice Owls on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. The Longhorns next Big 12 series is this coming Friday, where they will host the Oklahoma at 6:05 p.m. for the first of a three-game set.