It’s been a rough year for Michael Cantu. Heading into Saturday’s season finale with Baylor, the sophomore catcher sported a lowly .189 batting average, racking up just seven RBIs on the year. A season with so much potential had been squandered, with his failings mirroring much of the Longhorns roster.
But Cantu came through on Saturday, slapping three hits — including the go-ahead single in the seventh — in Texas’ 7-6 victory over Baylor.
The win improved the Longhorns’ record to 22–30, 10–14 Big 12. And while their record is far from what anybody had hoped for, Saturday provided Texas some much-needed momentum heading into the Big 12 Tournament.
“It’s amazing what one run difference on the ‘w’ side will do for your attitude,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “As one of our players said, ‘one in a row, we’re hot!’”
Texas got on the board first in Saturday’s contest, taking a 2-0 lead after one. A trio of steals placed Longhorns on second and third with nobody out, putting Texas in prime position to pounce. And while the Longhorns were unable to avoid the Bears’ gloves in their next two at-bats, a sacrifice fly paired with a fielder's choice scored a pair of runs.
Charged with preserving the early lead for Texas was sophomore starting pitcher Connor Mayes. After a clean first two frames, Mayes ran into trouble in consecutive innings, allowing one run apiece in both the third and fourth innings. A groundout cut the Texas lead to 2-1 in the third, and a solo shot by senior West Tunnell tied the game up.
After holding a lead for most of the day, the wheels came off for Texas in the seventh. An early error was followed by back to back hits, tying the game at four.
The Longhorns seemed to get out of the inning with a routine ground ball hit to shortstop Brett Boswell. But the Longhorns defensive deficiencies reared their head once again as the redshirt sophomore juggled the ball and allowed a runner to score. After the top half of the seventh, Texas trailed 5-4.
But the deficit didn't last, as Texas put up a much-needed three spot in the bottom half of the inning. Cantu’s single was sandwiched by a sacrifice fly and subsequent base hit, giving Texas a lead it would never relinquish.
“Today was an example of how we can play,” Garrido said. “I’m really glad we got that win to get a little momentum heading into the tournament.”
The victory means little for Texas’ overall record — its worst since 1998. But there is still hope left in the Longhorns’ season, as a run through the Big 12 Tournament would give Texas a birth in the NCAA regionals. And while it’s certainly a long shot, junior center fielder Zane Gurwitz believes the Longhorns shouldn’t be counted out just yet.
“We’re in,” Gurwitz said. “We have a chance and that’s all we can ask for.”