Monday, April 30, 2007

Texas in firm control of Big 12.

Austin Wood

This wasn't supposed to happen. No matter how things went at Oklahoma State, Texas wasn't going to come away with a sweep.

After all, the Cowboys never had lost more than two consecutive games at Reynolds Stadium since it opened in 1981. They'd destroyed opponents, winning 693 of 831 home games.

Teams didn't come to Oklahoma State and dominate.

But Texas did.

The fifth-ranked Longhorns took full control of the Big 12 Conference by finishing off a three-game sweep of the No. 13 Cowboys on Sunday, with a convincing 7-0 victory in front of 2,200 fans at Reynolds Stadium.

"That means a lot," Texas' Kyle Russell said. "That means we can be a very tough team against a good opponent in a tough environment. And this was a tough place to play."

But not much of the expected happened this weekend.

Instead of a slugfest between the top two offenses in the best hitter's park in the conference, the teams combined to score just 21 runs.

Instead of the home run hitters adding to their large totals, it was the little guys coming through. Sunday was the perfect example.

Texas' Joseph Krebs was expected to start, but after he pitched in relief on Friday and Saturday, the Horns (37-12,17-4) started Austin Wood. Six shutout innings later, Wood (who picked up his sixth victory) gave way to Krebs and Randy Boone, who did the same thing they did in Games 1 and 2: shut the Cowboys (31-13, 10-8) down.

"Aside from scoring runs, our bullpen was the most important aspect of this series," Texas coach Augie Garrido said.

The bullpen threw 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the sweep. "They're dealing with the process," Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson said. "They're staying within themselves and really keeping focused on going pitch by pitch."

And Wood, who gave up just three hits and two walks, showed the Horns could count on him against a top-notch opponent.

"If we can start Wood whenever we need him and keep Krebs and Boone in the bullpen, now we've got a Division I pitching staff," Garrido said. "We are a much better team with Wood as a consistent starter."

The Cowboys were shut out for the first time at Reynolds Stadium since March 13, 1998, when Texas A&M did it in an 8-0 win.

As for the UT offense, the Horns won the series without their top four hitters taking control. Kyle Russell, Chance Wheeless, Jordan Danks and Bradley Suttle went a combined 6 for 45.

Texas, which will take on second-place Missouri (31-12, 12-6) next weekend at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, jumped on Oklahoma State in the third inning Sunday as Chais Fuller and Travis Tucker hit back-to-back singles. Nick Peoples reached on a throwing error to load the bases, and scored on a balk by starter Joe Kent.

Tucker scored on a sacrifice fly by Russell, and after Wheeless walked to load the bases, Suttle worked a walk, allowing Peoples to score for a 3-0 lead.

"This series proved that we're a team one through nine," Russell said. "When our big bats aren't coming through in the clutch, we've got other guys who are able to step up and carry us to victories."

Guys such as Fuller, who took advantage of his first starts at shortstop since the beginning of the season by going 5 for 9. Or Peoples, who was 5 for 10 in the series.

"Baseball is a game of infinite possibilities," Garrido said.

One possibility continues to get greater and greater: Texas winning its second consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship.

Texas Rexap
OSU Recap

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