The Longhorns continued their descent on the slow downward spiral that's defined the final month of their 2016 season.
The familiar culprits of fielding gaffes and stagnant offense made their presence known Thursday night, sending the Longhorns to a 2-1 loss at the hands of the visiting Baylor Bears.
“[Texas] didn’t play that bad,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “It wasn’t good enough, but my responsibility is to take a team that’s had the crap kicked out of them and make sure they show up tomorrow with the right attitude to win.”
The Texas pitching duo of sophomore Morgan Cooper and freshman Beau Ridgeway collaborated for a performance worthy of victory.
Cooper twirled six innings of two run ball with none earned. His fastball zipped out of his right hand with the kind of action that made him a hot prospect during his freshman season in Austin.
Cooper even had the added luxury of strong defense behind him for much of the game.
In a contest where baserunners were at a premium, the Bears got a runner on first with one out in the fourth. The next hitter, Baylor second baseman Justin Arrington, slapped a grounder deep into the hole at short that looked like more trouble. But Texas sophomore shortstop Joe Baker ranged far to his right, throwing to second where sophomore Jake McKenzie pivoted and snapped a bullet back to first for an inning-ending double play.
But in the fifth, Texas returned to its season-long narrative of defensive lapses lighting up the scoreboard.
Cooper hit the first batter of the inning then fielded a sacrifice bunt and floated the throw over the head of junior first baseman Kacy Clemens. After that, a grounder to first and a chopper just past Cooper’s glove tallied a pair of runs to give the Bears a 2-0 lead.
Garrido’s diagnosis of the situation was simple.
“One free base: hit batter. One error. Two runs. And we didn’t cover the spread,” Garrido said.
The Longhorns had runners in scoring position in four separate innings, but a sixth-inning laser from junior infielder Tres Barrera was the only RBI for the Longhorns.
Ridgeway relieved Cooper in the seventh and turned in a trio of perfect innings, but the offense couldn’t match the freshman’s efforts.
Clemens struck out to end the game, cementing the Longhorns’ seventh straight Big 12 loss and dropping Texas to seven games below .500 before the final pair of regular season contests.
The loss does not help Texas’ late season resume, but at this point in the season, such concerns have fallen by the wayside.
“It doesn’t change the goal,” Garrido said. “The goal shifted to the tournament long ago.”
Texas will return to action against the Bears at 6 p.m. Friday night for its penultimate contest of the regular season.