Conference play is the start of a new season, and for Texas it was a much needed fresh start.
The Longhorns (10-8, 3-0 Big 12) began Big 12 play with a three game sweep over No. 21 Oklahoma (11-9, 0-3 Big 12).
Coming into the series the Longhorns were under .500, and struggling at the plate. But it seems that all it took was a three-game set against the rival Sooners to get going.
The key to the turnaround seemed to be the confidence gained from Friday’s extra inning nail-biter, in which Texas pulled out a 7-6 victory in 12 innings.
The game started out slow for the Longhorns as they quickly fell behind 4-0 in the first inning, but they crawled back throughout the game to send it to extras.
After two scoreless innings in the 10th and the 11th, Mark Payton came up with one out in the top of the 12th and snuck a bunt down the first baseline for a hit starting the rally. Tim Maitland then hit a single back up the middle at the pitcher to put runners on first and second.
After Erich Weiss made an out, junior Jonathan Walsh came to the plate and delivered, knocking a double down the left field line to score both runners and put Texas ahead 7-5. The hit is particularly impressive considering Walsh had made outs in two bases loaded situations earlier in the game, but he came up big when it really mattered.
Oklahoma did not go quietly, though.
Catcher Tanner Toal lofted a home run over the left field fence against reliever Hoby Milner, with one out, to put the Sooners within one. At that point Texas went to the bullpen and looked to freshman Parker French to close out the game. That is exactly what he did, inducing two quick outs to end it.
In game two, Texas dropped the dramatics and instead pounded Oklahoma for 15 hits in a 9-5 win.
Weiss led the way for the Longhorns going 4-for-5 at the plate, with two RBI and two runs scored. Mark Payton also had an excellent day at the top of the order pacing the lineup with three hits. Walsh, senior Jordan Etier and sophomore Jacob Felts each contributed two hits apiece as well.
On Sunday, Texas completed the sweep with a 9-4 win. The victory marks 14 consecutive series in which the Longhorns have toppled Oklahoma and gave the team its first sweep of the season.
The game saw the offense once again pace the team — a welcome change from its poor hitting performances earlier in the season — with 13 hits making it three consecutive games that the team has reached double digits in the category.
Texas got ahead quickly in the contest, scoring two runs in the first and added one in the second and the fourth, putting it ahead 4-0 — a lead the Longhorns would never look back from.
Printed on Monday, March 19, 2012 as: UT completes three-game sweep of Oklahoma to begin conference season