The Texas Longhorns entered this weekend’s series against third place TCU in first place in the Big XII, riding a seven game conference winning streak and in position to put the conference in a stranglehold with another series win. Instead, TCU’s pitching staff doused the Longhorns hot hitting and swept the Horns, winning the Saturday afternoon finale 3-1 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
The Longhorns entered the weekend ranked in the top six by both major polls, setting them up to earn a top eight national seed once the NCAA baseball tournament starts next month. Now it remains to be seen how far the Horns will fall or what it will do to those chances. At this point, it would take a complete disaster to keep Texas out of the tournament, but a top eight seed would guarantee Texas homefield advantage through the Super Regionals.
After this weekend, though, Texas isn’t even in control of the Big XII. TCU (26-13 overall) is now 10-5 in conference play, moving up to second behind Oklahoma State, who slid into first with Texas’ disasterous weekend. Texas (30-11 9-6) fell to third in the conference.
Texas was already assured of a series loss when the teams met for the finale on Saturday afternoon but could have held on to a share of the conference lead with a win. After being shutout Thursday and Friday night, Texas scored first when Collin Shaw hit a RBI groundout that pushed Brooks Marlow home.
Unfortunately that was all Texas would get on the day. The Longhorns would put men on base in the fouth, fifth and sixth innings, but could not come up with the big hit they needed.
For a while it looked like Longhorn ace Nathan Thornhill (6-1) would make the lead stand up. Then TCU got to Thornhill in the seventh. The Horned Frogs tied it on a Dylan Fitzgerald double, then took the lead for good with two outs in the inning when Garret Crain singled in Fitzgerald.
Texas tried to tie it in the eight. Marlow lead off with a single and advanced to second base. Yet, as it would go all weekend, TCU’s pitchers answered the challenge. Trey Teakell, Travis Evans and Alex Young would each record an out in the inning to strand Marlow. Teakell (2-0) was credited with the win in relief of starter Tyler Alexander.
TCU then put the game away in the ninth. Fitzgerald was again the culprit, doubling in Frog C Jerrick Suiter for the second time in the game.
Texas didn’t go down with a fight. They loaded the bases against TCU closer Riley Ferrell. Ferrell had already saved the previous two games and he came through again. Ferrell induced Andy McGuire to hit into a game ending double play, completing the sweep for TCU. It was the ninth save on the season for Ferrell who dropped his ERA to a team best 0.76 with his dominating effort over the weekend.
Next up for Texas is a mid-week visit from Texas Pan-America before the Horns welcome conference leader Oklahoma State to the Disch for what stacks up as a crucial series next weekend. The Longhorns last two conference series will both come on the road, as Texas will visit West Virginia and Kansas State to round out the regular season schedule. Both WVU and KSU are in the bottom third of the conference, so next weekend’s series will be Texas’ last chance to make a national statement.
With the exception of one more mid-week visit from Texas State, the OSU series will also be the last home games of the year for the Longhorns unless they host a Regional tournament.