The Longhorns struggled to start the year, barely stayed above .500 in conference play and suffered from a myriad of inconsistency issues, including having the worst fielding percentage in the Big 12.
None of the mattered on Sunday, because Texas is headed back to Austin with the Big 12 Championship Trophy in hand. The Horns beat Kansas State 15-7 in Oklahoma City to take conference tournament title.
The bats were working for Texas on Sunday and the offensive performance of the day went to left fielder Russell Moldenhauer, who was 4-for-6 with two runs, two doubles and four RBI.
The game was knotted at one apiece after two innings, but the top of the third is when the Horns blew things blew open. Texas put up four runs in both the third and fourth innings to take a commanding 9-1 lead heading into the fifth.
The fifth, however, was where the only major hiccup for the Horns occurred. The Wildcat offense emerged from its slumber to drop down five runs in the inning and narrow the Texas lead to three.
However, three more runs for the Horns in the top of the sixth put things back on track for Texas. Longhorn head coach Augie Garrido was impressed with his team's ability to right the ship after giving up five runs in the fifth.
“We did a good job of putting runs on the board and continuing to answer and when they scored we continued to answer,” said Garrido. “By the time we got late in the game, Austin (Wood) was in the position to come in and he took control of the game from the defensive side.”
Riley Boening got the start for Texas, but it was Wood (6-3) who came away with the win. The junior left-hander came in for freshman Cole Green after Green surrendered five of the Wildcats' seven runs in the game. Wood carried Texas for most of the way out, giving up no runs and only one hit over three and a third innings. Freshman Chance Ruffin, typically the Horns' Friday starter, came in to close out the game in the ninth.
Kansas State managed to snag one run in the bottom of the ninth off of Ruffin with a sac fly by Justin Bloxom to score Carter Jurica, but Ruffin then struck out Kansas State's Drew Biery to end the game.
After the championship game, Garrido gave a great deal of credit to his pitchers, and his pitching coach, for the victory.
“I think Coach (Skip) Johnson did a good job setting up the pitching and the breakdown with Cole Green being the only glitch,” said Garrido.
NCAA Regionals start on Friday for Texas. The Horns received a No. 2 seed in the Rice Regional and will open play vs. the regional's No. 3 seed, St. John's, at 2 p.m. The Owls will take on the No. 4 seed Sam Houston State. If the Longhorns win the regional and advance, they'll play the winner of the Texas A&M Regional in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
2008 PHILLIPS 66 BIG 12 BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
1B – Brandon Belt, Texas
2B – Jake Opitz, Nebraska
SS – Drew Biery, Kansas State
3B – Nate Tenbrink, Kansas State
C – Luis Flores , Oklahoma State
OF – Jacob Priday, Missouri
OF – Jordan Danks, Texas
OF – Russell Moldenhauer, Texas
DH – Rebel Ridling, Oklahoma State
P – Daniel Edwards, Kansas State
P – Andrew Doyle , Oklahoma
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
1B – Brandon Belt, Texas