Texas moved one step closer Saturday to first place in the Big 12 with a 4-3 win over Oklahoma at Disch-Falk Field. The Longhorns took the first two games of the series, and will go for the sweep on Sunday.
“The sweep is huge with the way percentages work in the Big 12,” first baseman Tant Shepherd said. “A sweep in this conference is really big and that’s something we want to do.”
Cole Green picked up the win for Texas but got into early trouble after a perfect first inning. Green walked leadoff hitter Tyler Ogle in the second inning, and after a sac bunt from Cameron Seitzer moved Ogle to second base, Ricky Eisenberg put the Sooners on the board with an RBI single to right field. Oklahoma scored two more runs on a Caleb Bushyhead triple three batters later, and lead 3-0 heading into the bottom of the second inning.
“I was getting under the ball and I was getting out of rhythm and felt a little uncomfortable,” Green said. “Every inning, every pitch is a battle.”
Erich Weiss responded in the home half of the second, hitting a leadoff homerun over the right field wall. It was Weiss’ third homerun of the year, and the freshman extended his hitting streak to 15 consecutive games.
“I was going to back off the plate a little bit, and [Oklahoma pitcher Burch Smith] ended up leaving one up in the strike zone and I just put a good swing on it,” Weiss said. “I kind of knew that one was gone.”
Texas continued the rally in the third inning. The Longhorns began the inning with four consecutive singles, culminating in Shepherd’s two-RBI shot through the left side of the infield. Paul Montalbano added another run with a RBI bloop-double that fell fair of the left field line.
“That was a little lucky. I haven’t had a hit like that all season,” Montalbano said. “I’ll take it.”
Texas head coach Augie Garrido was reluctant to put Montalbano fifth in the batting order, but said the senior had a knack for sustaining rallies in a variety of ways.
“He’s not the prototype five-hole hitter, but maybe we’re not the prototype offense,” Garrido said. “We’ve got to put people into positions were they can keep the rally going.”
The four runs were all Texas needed for the win. Green retired eight consecutive batters after his rough second inning. The senior struck out six in six innings, and moved to 4-3 for the season.
Corey Knebel recorded his 14th save on the season, but had trouble in the ninth inning. He walked the leadoff batter and hit another to put two on for the Sooners.
“I’m upset at myself I let those guys get on. I know I’m a better pitcher than they are hitters, and I shouldn’t have let them get on base,” Knebel said.
The freshman struck out one and got the final batter to fly out to right field to end the game.
Sam Stafford will start for Texas on Sunday as the Longhorns try for the sweep.
Friday’s 5-0 win over Oklahoma was more than just another Texas ‘W’ in the win column.
For Augie Garrido, it means the achievement of a milestone: career win No. 1,800.
“The truth of it, with no modesty included, its significance is not deniable because it represents so many extraordinary people and the job they’ve done,” said Garrido, who is the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach. “No one person really accomplishes anything without the other people around him.”
Taylor Jungmann was the key catalyst, tossing his third complete-game shutout of the season, and his first since handcuffing Hawaii in late February. In 107 pitches of work, Jungmann (10-0) fanned nine Sooners and allowed just four hits.
“Everything worked well for me tonight,” he said.
The junior held his own as the Longhorns’ offense struggled to find their footing, pitching out of a few early jams, including a bases-loaded situation in the third inning against Oklahoma’s Garrett Buechele — a .386 batter with already 51 RBI and 7 homeruns.
“He had the bases loaded with one out [the third inning] and the fifth inning he had runners on third and second with one out and he got out of those innings. Those were the innings that changed the game,” Garrido said. “The momentum shifted.”
Jungmann’s infielders agreed.
“You look at Buechele’s stats and you know he’s good, but Jungmann is fearless,” said junior shortstop Brandon Loy. “He’s not scared of anybody. He pitches his game, he doesn’t care who’s up there.”
The bats picked up their ace pitcher in the fourth, as senior center fielder Paul Montalbano drove in Tant Shepherd with a double to left center, his thirteenth RBI of the year.
“Their pitcher left it up and over the plate so I was just trying to put a ball in the outfield,” Montalbano said.
In the fifth inning, Loy hit a two-out triple to center off Oklahoma starter Michael Rocha. Mark Payton laid down a drag bunt to bring him home.
The Longhorns tacked two more runs on in the sixth. Freshman Erich Weiss started the rally with a triple to the left field line — his sixth triple of the year, a Texas freshman record — and Montalbano brought him home with a single to right. Montalbano moved to second on a passed ball, and Jonathan Walsh drove him in with a single to center.
“Our offense was ready to play today, and we played good defense,” Payton said. “We did the little things right today. This was a huge win.”
Texas struck once more in the seventh, as Loy jacked a leadoff home run right over the 375-foot sign in left. It’s the first home run of the year for the junior, and the second of his career.
“It was a fastball in, and I just squared it up,” he said. “The wind was on my side.”
Loy finished his day 3-for-4, just a double shy of the cycle. Fitting that his best day in a Longhorn uniform came against the rival he loves to play — and has never lost to.
“It was a good day for me,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, we haven’t been beaten by them. We’ve swept them two years in a row. It’s the most fun series for me. There’s something about playing Oklahoma that gives you some extra motivation.”
Weiss’ sixth-inning triple increased his hit-streak to 14 games. The third baseman is now 11 away from Michael Torres’ school record of 25.
“It’s great to keep the streak going,” Weiss said. “But I didn’t really think about the streak today. I know it’s there, but I’m not thinking about it. It’s good if you don’t, because then you don’t have high expectations.”
Dominant pitching and an offense that showcased a bit of everything — runs scored on two-out hitting, bunts, and even the rare homerun — proved a devastating combination for the No. 14 Sooners.
“Our team scrapped it out. I think we showed that we can hit good pitching,” Garrido said. “I think we’re moving forward.”