Texas got kicked in the teeth in its 2016 Big 12 Tournament debut against Oklahoma State on Wednesday, losing 10-4 despite jumping out to a 4-0 lead through four and a half innings. But on Thursday, the Longhorns built a lead against the Baylor Bears and never relinquished it.
Back-to-back home runs from junior catcher Tres Barrera and first baseman Kacy Clemens were the main offensive catalysts behind Texas jumping out to another early, and this time sustainable, 7-0 lead after two and a half innings.
That early advantage served as the cornerstone for a commanding 15-3 seven-inning run rule victory that will keep the Longhorn season alive at least one more day and send the Bears back to Waco.
“We didn’t make errors, we didn’t let ‘em get any momentum,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido told 104.9 The Horn after the game. “Every time they got a little bit going we answered back offensively.”
Sophomore pitcher Morgan Cooper, who compiled a less than stellar 2-5 record and 4.05 ERA in the regular season, pounded the strike zone and made sure that the Bears were never able to get too comfortable in the batter’s box.
Cooper stymied the Baylor bats to the tune of a seven-inning complete game, but it was the Texas offense that stole the show Thursday afternoon.
A smattering of singles and a triple from sophomore outfielder Patrick Mathis gave the Longhorns a 3-0 lead after one. An inning later, the back-to-back home runs from Barrera and Clemens chased Baylor pitcher Drew Tolson out of the game after just 2.1 innings. Tolson dominated the Texas bats in his start last Thursday, when the Longhorns scored just one run.
“I thought they did a very good job of separating the balls they could hit from the ones they couldn’t hit,” Garrido said. “They found that balance consistently between being aggressive and patient.”
A seven-run offensive eruption in the seventh, capped by a Mathis three-run homer to center, gave Texas a 15-3 lead. Cooper then cruised through the seventh and final inning and gave the beleaguered bullpen a much-needed afternoon off in the early stages of the tournament.
“It keeps us in the hunt,” Garrido said of rested bullpen on The Horn. “Stranger things have happened … the players, that’s all they were talking about when they came over before ‘The Eyes,’ they came over and said ‘We’re still in it, we got a chance, keep it going.’”
The Longhorns will be back in action on Friday against the loser of Thursday’s Oklahoma State vs. TCU matchup.