Oh, what a way to lose.
After a thrilling, dramatic, two-outs-in-the-ninth-inning comeback for the Longhorns, it had to end like this. Texas trailed 6-4 in the ninth, but a two RBI single from catcher Preston Clark sent the game to extra innings. But in the top of the 11th, with a runner on third, Clark tossed the ball back to pitcher Randy Boone...only to have the ball slip past Boone's glove, allowing Missouri pinch runner Kurt Calvert to run home and give the Tigers the lead.
After the game, Clark sat in the dugout staring forward with no words to say. He had come through in the clutch with two RBI in the ninth to tie the game, but none of that mattered to the Texas catcher.
"Nothin' to say," said Clark with no tone or emotion, only a solumn stare at nothing. "I didn't get it back to Boone. We lost the game."
Boone even had players backing him up on the simple toss, but Texas head coach Augie Garrido said the ball just landed in the wrong spot.
"It didn't go into the outfield, it was just soft enough that it didn't go anywhere," said Garrido.
Texas still had a shot in the bottom half of the inning, but there was just as much drama there as in the top half. With two outs, Longhorn right fielder Jordan Danks hit the ball into right and Missouri right fielder Ryan Lollis dove and missed the ball. With the ball rolling away from the Missouri fielder, Texas pinch hitter Clay Van Hook ran for home as hard as he could, attempting to score from first. But Lollis recovered the ball and launched it on a rope to catcher Trevor Coleman, who tagged Van Hook to end the game.
"I was just thinking, 'Get up as quick as you can,'" said Lollis. "Luckily the throw got there and Trevor made a great tag."
With the win, Missouri (32-12, 13-6 Big 12) narrowed the gap between itself and first-place Texas, (37-13, 17-5 Big 12) but the Horns still lead by two and a half games with only five regular season games remaining.
Texas jumped out to an early lead, as it typically does, going up 2-0 with a run in the first and second innings. The Longhorns have outscored opponents 86-29 in the first two innings of games this season.
In bottom of the third, the bats really started pinging. Kyle Russell knocked a solo homerun to left field, extending the Texas single-season homerun record to 25, but the fireworks were not over.
In the top of the fourth, the Tigers answered Russell's solo shot with back-to-back homeruns to lead off the inning. DH Jacob Priday and Coleman each put the ball over the left field wall and into the Texas bullpen. Longhorn pitcher James Russell got the next three batters out and Texas still held on to a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Russell blasted No. 26 over the left field wall. The pitchers in the Texas bullpen were certainly kept awake this game, as four homeruns fell into nearly the same spot. It was a productive game for Russell, but in the end the homeruns didn't matter to the sophomore right fielder.
"This was a hard game to swallow," Russell told Inside Texas.
The two Missouri homeruns in the fourth were the only notable misteps in a solid performance from Texas starting pitcher James Russell, giving up only those two runs over six innings on five hits, while striking out three.
But the relief did not hold, Joseph Krebs came on in the seventh, but was replaced by Boone after the Tigers loaded the bases on him. After Boone walked home a run, Lollis knocked in two more on a single to left. Another run came in on a SAC fly from Priday before the top half of the seventh finally ended.
But, like James Russell before him, Boone followed his one inning of struggles with a string of scoreless baseball. The Texas bats, however, remained cold for the next three innings.
Texas was presented with a huge opportunity to stage a comeback in the eigth inning when, with two outs, the Longhorns put their next three batters on base to load 'em up. That brought lead-off hitter Nick Peoples to the plate. Peoples had gone an uncharacteristic 0-for-4 on the day up to that point and, despite strong play in center field, his woes at the plate continued. Peoples went down swinging for his third stikeout of the evening. Peoples would finish 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.
The meat of the Texas order was up in the ninth, with Kyle Russell starting things off. But his bid for a third homerun fell short in right field for the first out. First baseman Chance Wheeless turned out to be the first spark for Texas in the inning, singling to center field, and his hit was followed by another one, this time from third baseman Bradley Suttle.
Pinch hitter Clay Van Hook came to the plate and promptly sat back down on a strikeout. A walk from left fielder Jordan Danks loaded the bases for Texas again in a key situation, but this time the Longhorns took advantage of it. Clark came to the plate and worked his magic, taking the game to 6-6.
But unfortunately for Texas, that was the last piece of good news they'd get in the game.
"We're No. 1 in the conference, they're No. 2. It's a dogfight," said Russell. "Today's game was a dogfight, tomorrow's will be a dogfight and Sunday's will be a dogfight."
Gametime for Saturday's contest against the Tigers is set for 2 p.m. Texas will send RHP Adrian Alaniz (10-2, 2.54 ERA) to the mound to face Missouri's Rick Zagone (6-0, 3.92 ERA). The Horns round out the series at the Disch at 1 p.m. on Sunday.