Near the end of a season that has been filled with one frustration after the next, it all seemed to crash down on the Texas Longhorns on Saturday as they were dismantled by Texas Tech, 9-1. At 24-23 overall, the Horns are all but eliminated from postseason contention, barring an unlikely tournament win in the Big 12 championship.
The offense set the tone for the game when leadoff batters reached third base in both the first and third innings. Both times, Texas bats failed to produce the needed hit to drive in a run.
After the game, head coach Augie Garrido said, â€œAt the moment we needed to drive in a run, which has been our characteristic a lot this year, is when we took some bad at-batsâ€¦swinging at balls outside the strike zone.â€
The Longhornsâ€™ offense had two hits and two walks total in the first three innings, but had no runs to go with the production. Texas Techâ€™s starting pitcher, Cameron Smith, handled the Horns from that point forward, scattering just five more hits and no walks over the final six frames. Smith finished with a complete game win, allowing one earned run and striking out six Horns along the way.
The Red Raiders tore a page from Garridoâ€™s playbook in the top of the sixth inning. Tech tallied four runs on brilliantly executed work at the plate that consisted of two sacrifice fly balls, a bunt single, and an infield single. When the dust settled, Texas Tech led 4-0.
Stephen Smith put an exclamation mark on the Red Raidersâ€™ victory with a grand slam deep to left field in the top of the seventh. Smith crushed an offering from Chad Hollingsworth, with the only question being whether or not it would be a fair ball. Adding insult to injury the Red Raiders scratched yet another run across following Smith's blast, making it 9-0 after seven frames.
The Longhorns managed to score a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to avoid being shutout. Ben Johnson and Zane Gurwitz hit consecutive doubles to produce Texasâ€™ lone run.
Texas and Texas Tech play the series finale on Sunday at 1:00PM (Central).
Opening statement: â€œThe game is a game of momentum and we missed our opportunities early, starting with the first inning; we didn't score. We continue to hit the ball hard and made some quality outs and had some quality at-bats, but at the moment we needed to drive in a run, which has been our characteristic a lot this year, is when we took some bad at-bats, out of character at-bats, swinging at balls outside the strike zone and I guess you can say they're feeling the pressure of the situation and responding to it in a negative way, rather than a positive way. When they got to four [runs], it was a series of a ball off the handle of the bat that fell in between the second baseman and right fielder and then some bunts into some pretty good places and we didn't convert the outs. So they really got it rolling at that point, and then the grand slam speaks for itself. Once they had the four-run inning, it loosened them up a lot and they became more aggressive and more successful. I really thought we did a good job in the first part of the game getting ourselves into position to score, but we didn't convert them into runs and that led them into the downfall of the game in my opinion.
I thought Ty [Culbreth] pitched well. The things that happened to him in the four-run inning were really not a lot of his doing. We didn't get the outs on time and that led to base runners and finally led to four runs. They did a good job of taking quality at-bats with the runner on third. They got two runs that way and them extended the rally with a double, which really helped them score.â€
On the disappointing season: â€œI think that we had a lot of success and a lot of fight and a lot of expectations and a lot of that type of thing, and I think when we lost the first three-game weekend is where they started to feel differently about their ability to come back and their ability to win the game. And we've had problems with RBIs. Our leading RBI guy has 30. We have players with 145 or more at-bats with 18.â€
On making the tournament: â€œI see hope in all that. We've talked to some people on that committee and we need to win tomorrow and obviously as many Baylor games and one remaining Texas State game as possible. We probably have to do well in the tournament, too. There is that hope. To quote the people that we talked to, and I'm not going to give any names, but to quote the people, "You're still on the radar." â€œ
On the loss: â€œWe have to move on from it and bounce back. We can still get a series win, so we have to learn from it, move on and push forward.â€
On Texas Tech capitalizing on opportunities and Texas not: â€œYes, they took advantage of some opportunities they had, obviously with the grand slam. They were able to get some sac[rifice] bunts to work for hits for them, and it just did not work out for us today. They kind of took the momentum, and once that happened we could not really bounce back. So, like I said, we have to get over it, move on and find a way to get it done tomorrow.â€
On the mentality for the rest of the season: â€œTry and win as many games as possible. If we were to win out, who knows what will happen. We just have to find a way to win games to give us a chance to find a way to get in [to the NCAA Tournament]. We know obviously the Big 12 Tournament is going to be huge for us, and we are going to have to go out there and win some games.â€
On if the team is putting too much pressure on itself: â€œMaybe. At the same time, we have had some hard hit baseballs that haven't dropped, but that's no excuse. We have to find a way to put runs on the board.â€
On the loss today: â€œThat's a tough one, you know? I think we played well all the way around, we hit a lot of balls hard at the right times, but it was either right at somebody or they made a great play in the field. It's just going to have to be one that we swallow and worry about tomorrow.â€
On his performance: â€œI thought I did throw well today, and I attacked the mitt really well today. It's always my goal to throw strikes and let my defense work, and they did that for me today. Other than that, I felt that I had good command of all pitches even in the sixth [inning]. It was just unfortunate.â€
On the offense not putting up any early runs: â€œI try not to think about that during the game. You can't control what they do; my job is to throw strikes and compete as well as I can. I'm not going to blame anybody, they [Texas Tech] just got timely hits at the right time. Credit to them for that; I am not going to say anything about our hitting. [Texas Tech] did well, they hit the ball well all day. It's just kind of unfortunate.â€
On if the team feels pressure: â€œIn the locker room it's fine, we know what we have to do, it's no secret. We have to take it one day at a time, we can't start looking forward two months down the road and stuff. We just have to take care of tomorrow.â€