For the third straight weekend, Texas went into the final contest of a three-game series having split the previous two games. Not only that, but the Longhorns had won one and lost the other one of those two rubber matches.
So the fact that Texas and Oklahoma State were tied going into the eighth inning should not have been all that surprising. The Longhorns and Cowboys were in a similar spot Friday evening, when they were tied at 1-1 until the 11th inning.
This time, sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, who saved two runs from scoring with a diving catch earlier in the game, broke a 2-2 tie with a solo home run in the eighth inning. After junior pitcher Hoby Milner tossed a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his second save of the season, No. 23 Texas (20-13, 9-3) secured its fourth straight Big 12 series win with a 3-2 victory, its second of the day over Oklahoma State (18-16, 5-7).
Freshman Ricky Jacquez was tagged for two runs in the first inning after giving up two hits and issuing two walks in the first frame. He bounced back nicely after that rocky start, striking out six in four innings and working out of jams in each of his last two innings of work.
"The game could have been 6-1 or 8-1 after three innings without him pitching out of those situations," said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. "It was a long day. They competed for 18 innings and they were pretty consistent."
Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss' RBI double in the bottom half of the first inning cut Oklahoma State's lead in half at 2-1. Then, freshman center fielder Taylor Stell raced home after Weiss was thrown out on a safety squeeze bunt attempt in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2. Stell, who went 2-for-5 between the two wins Saturday, was also hit by a pitch three times.
"I didn't really feel like I was crowding the plate but they just kept hitting me and I kept getting on base," Stell said. "If he's going to throw it inside, you just let it go off your arm. It hurts for a little bit but it's a way to get on base."
Payton made the first of two crucial plays in the next inning. Jacquez gave up a leadoff double and issued a one-out walk after a sacrifice bunt advanced the leadoff batter to third base. With two outs and Cowboys baserunners at second and third, Oklahoma State catcher Jared Womack lifted a ball to shallow right field. Payton sprinted to it, leapt, and snagged the ball while his fully-extended body, parallel to the turf, was still airborne.
"I thought I could make an aggressive play in the outfield and I was lucky enough to come up with it," Payton said. "I got a pretty good jump on it and was lucky enough that the wind was blowing to left field."
Payton took advantage of that wind Friday night with a double off the left field wall in the eighth inning. But he was stranded on second and Texas eventually lost the series opener, 3-1, in extra innings. Payton, again in the eighth and again with one out, launched a ball toward the same place, but this time around, the ball cleared the left-field wall.
"He's pretty clutch," said freshman pitcher Parker French, who threw eight scoreless innings in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. "He always seems to square up the ball in big moments. He's awesome. He's tough to face. He's a tough out."