Longhorns 4 1/2 games behind OU, likely need to win out to make NCAA Tournament


Shelby Tauber

Texas will finish its season series with Houston on Tuesday night. The Cougars defeated the Longhorns 4-3 on March 19 in Houston.

Matt Warden

This weekend was the same story but a different chapter for a team whose book might be nearing its final pages.

Texas did what it has done all season long in its first Big 12 series against newcomer West Virginia — show flashes of brilliance while failing to close the deal. Like they did in their first four series in Big 12 play, the Longhorns split the first two games before falling in Sunday’s rubber match.

After yet another failed attempt to find their first series win of the season, the Longhorns sit at 5-10 in the Big 12, 4 1/2 games behind Oklahoma for the conference lead. In the most recent NCAA Tournament forecast, the Oklahoma Sooners and the Kansas Jayhawks were the only two Big 12 teams slated to make the tournament.

While Oklahoma’s lead doesn’t sound too large, it seems insurmountable when looking at the numbers. The Longhorns are hitting .265 as a team this season, but only .245 in Big 12 play while averaging 8.47 runners left on base in conference games.

Texas’ No. 2 starter Dillon Peters has completely shut down Big 12 opponents this season, holding a 0.98 ERA in conference play. Most of Texas’ wins in Big 12 series have come in game two with Peters on the mound as opposed to Parker French and Nathan Thornhill, who are a combined 0-5 in ten starts in Big 12 play this season.

In order for the Longhorns to have a chance at the Big 12 title this season, they have to win at least five of their nine remaining conference games. However, given the Longhorns’ 21-17 overall record, they will likely need to win their final 13 games to have any shot at the NCAA Tournament.

Texas has shown that when it scores runs it has the pitching to win every game, but it can’t shake inconsistency as evidenced by a 9-8 record in one-run games and a 2-5 record in two-run games. For this season’s Longhorns, the only formula for success has been erupting for six or more runs. The Longhorns are 10-1 when they do that.

After being blanked in a 1-0 loss last Friday and shutting West Virginia in a 12-0 win Saturday, Texas fought tooth and nail in Sunday’s series finale but fell to the Mountaineers, 6-3 after Corey Knebel gave up three runs in the decisive 10th inning. The Longhorns had just four hits and left nine on base Sunday.

“It’s very difficult, obviously,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “But as you go through this, if you can’t see the opportunity in the next day, then you really are missing out the best part of baseball and that is your opportunities — the next time you get to play.”

Texas will begin its push Tuesday night to win out against Houston, a team who beat them 4-3 already this season.