Posted: 10:47 a.m. Monday, May 6, 2013
By Abram Orlansky
Texas hosted Kansas State last weekend, and like all conference opponents Texas has faced in 2013, the Wildcats walked away with a series win. That put Kansas State at 11-7 in conference, and with Oklahoma's recent struggles that was enough to pull them into a three-way tie for first place along with the Sooners and West Virginia.
We won't go through the painful process of recapping the entire series. Rather, we will summarize the Texas season in a single play. On Sunday, the Longhorns wanted to appeal a call at third base. For casual fans, that involves throwing the ball to the third baseman to step on the bag, and if the umpire agrees that the runner left early on the fly ball then the runner is called out. Pitcher Nathan Thornhill made an error in his attempt to complete this formality, throwing the ball away and allowing other runners to advance. So yeah. That happened.
As a result of the loss, in a conference so weak it is about to see an exciting end-of-season race for first place between Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia (and potentially Okie State), Texas is now nearly assured of being the only team out of nine that is left out of the conference tournament. The eight teams with the best conference records make the tournament, and with Iowa State not playing baseball that means only the league doormat stays home. In the event of a tie, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. As of now, Texas Tech is in eighth place with a 7-14 Big 12 record, while Texas is a game back at 6-15. The problem is that because Tech took two of three from Texas in Austin, for all intents and purposes Texas is actually two games behind the Red Raiders; i.e., if the teams finish in a tie then Tech goes to OKC and Texas' season is over.
Neither team plays a conference series this weekend; in two weeks, the Longhorns play TCU and the Raiders play Baylor. If Tech wins one game in that series, then Texas must sweep TCU to squeeze past the Lubbock Juggernaut. Considering Texas has yet to win a single conference series, closing the season with a sweep seems unlikely.
There is one other factor in this race, and that is TCU. The Frogs travel to West Virginia this weekend ahead of their series against Texas. If they get swept, they will enter next weekend with an 8-13 record. Which means that, if Texas then swept TCU, the Longhorns would finish a game ahead of the Horned Frogs and make the tournament that way. But, again, a sweep on the road to finish a season as dismal as this one seems like a long shot. And that possibility is even more remote now that the Statesman is reporting Corey Knebel tried to cheat a drug test, which is what resulted in his suspension and likely means he will not return.
So, the hard reality is that the most likely scenario sees Texas finishing in ninth place out of nine teams in the Big 12. It would be the first time Texas has missed the conference tournament since 1998, when only six of 11 teams were included; if it was an eight-team tournament, the Longhorns would have made it that year, too. Add in the fact that Texas has now lost 10 straight conference series, and the state of the program is simply astounding. We'll wrap up the season and give an assessment of where Texas Baseball is in the grand scheme once it's officially over, but for now it will suffice to say: we thought throughout this season that, no matter what, Augie Garrido has earned another year to get this thing back on track. The one qualifier was "I mean, of course he can't embarrass the program by missing the conference tournament or something." If that turns out to be what happens, we'll be surprised to be writing that one of the top 5 coaches in college baseball history probably needs to call it quits. But we'll probably be writing it all the same.