An expected pitcher’s duel between future top MLB Draft picks Ty Madden and Jackson Wolf at the Big 12 Tournament delivered. Both pitchers were better than they were last Thursday. And once again, No. 8 seed West Virginia (25-25) was the team that came up with the bigger hits and found a way to upset No. 1 seed Texas (40-14) with a 5-1 victory.
Call it desperation or whatever you choose. West Virginia was just a little bit better all-around, a little more aggressive, a little more energetic and a little more confident. In the game’s defining moments, West Virginia was able to push across runs while Texas couldn’t besides Eric Kennedy’s solo homer.
“Well, you want to be hot going into regionals and you want to be playing your best,” said David Pierce when asked how much this loss stings. “And I’ve been in a situation where we’ve gone 0-2 and then tore through a regional, through a super regional and played really well in Omaha. And so it’s frustrating when you’re playing so well, and then it just feels like a phase of our game didn’t show up today. But I think in the big picture, our kids are tough, they’re resilient. They’re going to be ticked about it, and now they just got to go to work.”
While West Virginia found a way to push runs across, including twice on wild pitches Silas Ardoin couldn’t block, Texas did things like being picked off at second base in a huge situation. With runners on first and second with one out and WVU starter Wolf on the ropes for the first time all game, Williams was inexplicably picked off at second base when Wolf wheeled around, fairly normally, and saw Williams extend his lead entirely too far. Trey Faltine then followed with a single and eventually Texas loaded the bases with two outs before Kennedy’s pop out ended the threat.
“If we don’t know how to get a lead at second base right now down by two… I mean, I wouldn’t say you can be okay with that. You just can’t. That’s not ever acceptable. You can’t get picked off in that situation,” a frustrated Pierce responded when asked if the issues in the seventh and eighth inning were learning lessons.
In the eighth inning, Texas again had a chance against Wolf, who went the distance and threw an inexcusably high 138 pitches. Mike Antico led off the inning with a check-swing infield single and stole second. Then, Mitchell Daly, Zach Zubia and Ivan Melendez all struck out, including the last two looking. Wolf presents a very unique look from his 6-7 frame. The lefty throws with extension – where he lets go of the baseball in relation to home plate – hardly ever seen at any level of baseball. But the Longhorns tightened up in the batter’s box at the wrong time.
DISCUSS TEXAS BASEBALL INSIDE THE 40 ACRES
As for Ty Madden, he was good but not great. However, the right-hander showed some noticeable changes on the mound. Madden, from the jump, threw more sliders in fastball counts, which resulted in some ugly swings and misses. He also tried to establish his changeup early and didn’t ditch the pitch because he didn’t have a lot of success with it, a change from previous outings. The changeup wasn’t a good pitch, but it was usable enough to give lefties something to think about, helping him go back inside with his fastball.
“I really was. I’m glad you brought that up… he’s been working his tail off on creating that third pitch. And it was a workable, good pitch today; it wasn’t a pitch that he used and you know, it wasn’t effective three or four times and then ditched it,” said Pierce about Madden’s outing and using his changeup more. “He stayed with it the entire six innings that he pitched. I do think that he had a good, solid outing. He’s faced them within one week twice, and they’ve done a good job of ambushing some fastballs… when you’re a type of guy like Ty, which is a power guy, you got to be really good with your location and be able to back it up and pitch backwards a little bit. But overall, it gave us a chance to win.”
Across 6.2 innings, he gave up three runs on three hits, two walks and struck out five; one of his runs scored on a two-out, 2-2 slider down and away near its spot that probably should have been blocked. Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. (ESPNU), the Longhorns play the loser of tonight’s No. 4 Oklahoma State versus No. 5 Oklahoma game.
“I would say now that it’s all said and done that they were probably probably the hungrier team today; their season’s on the line,” responded Antico when asked if it’s tough to play a desperate team. “Maybe we got a little complacent. And we know that we’ll be an original next week. So maybe we didn’t come out with that same fire that they did… it’s a quick smack in the face. It’s tournament baseball, something we got to get used to, and it’s better it happens now than next weekend. You know what I mean? So, we just got to learn from it and move forward.”