Faltine Powers Texas to Big 12 Championship Game
ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas went into Saturday night’s second semifinal game against Oklahoma State looking for players in the lineup to step up.
For one thing, it was coming off of scoring one run on six hits in an 8-1 loss to Oklahoma State earlier in the day, which forced the second semifinal game to begin with. It also hadn’t scored more than five runs in any single game at the Big 12 Tournament, and in a game where its own pitching was going to be taxed, the Longhorns had to bet on needing more than five runs.
To add icing on the cake, Big 12 player of the year Ivan Melendez went into the game 0-for-8 in the Big 12 Tournament and both he and catcher Silas Ardoin, another quality offensive contributor, have been under the weather this week.
Texas ended up getting what it was looking for from shortstop Trey Faltine, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs to lead the Longhorns to an emphatic 9-2 win, sending them to the Big 12 championship game, where they will play rival Oklahoma.
Faltine started his day with an RBI infield single deep in the hole at shortstop in the second inning. In the third, he broke open what was at the time just a 3-1 game with a bases-clearing double into the left field corner. In the fifth, he scalded a double into left-center and scored on a Dylan Campbell triple.
More broadly, the Big 12 Tournament has been a breakout week for Faltine personally. The three-hit game Saturday night is just Faltine’s second multi-hit game since April 23. The other came in Texas’ Big 12 Tournament-opening game against OSU, when he went 3-for-4.
“Credit to all my teammates and coaches working (with) me every day through ups and downs,” Faltine said. “I have to credit them as well, it’s not just me. (They’re) throwing me hours and hours of BP with me in the cages non-stop, trying to figure it out (and) put together a good swing.”
As it turned out, while Faltine did the heavy lifting, the Longhorns got plenty of production all around. Melendez got his first two hits of the week, Dylan Campbell came off the bench and got on base both times he came to the plate, including that run-scoring triple, and eight different players had hits in what was an 11-hit attack for the lineup.
At the same time, the Texas pitching staff pitched well enough not just to win on a day when the offense scored nine runs, but well enough to win most any game, even if it wasn’t the cleanest effort.
The quintet of Andre Duplantier II, Jared Southard, Luke Harrison, Marcus Olivarez and Tristan Stevens held Oklahoma State to two runs as they worked around 13 base runners from five hits, seven walks and a hit batter.
None of the five threw more than 2.1 innings, which was Harrison’s total, but they combined to manage the game well, especially once Texas grabbed the lead. The only run the Cowboys scored after the first inning came on a Nolan McLean solo home run in the bottom of the fifth, after it already felt like the game was very much in hand.
“I think the story of the game for me is our bullpen,” Pierce said. “They did a nice job of just coming in two innings at a time. We pieced it together and (I’m) really proud of them because they’ve had some hits this year, but honestly they did their jobs and did a great job.”
The bullpen rounding into form would be a huge development for Texas as it heads into the postseason. As Pierce alluded to, that unit has been much maligned, but Saturday’s win showed what it can do against a quality opponent.
“Like Coach Pierce said, this bullpen has taken some hits throughout the course of the year, but we just keep telling our staff to keep believing in each other and to keep going,” Stevens said. “I think if there’s a time to put it all together, why not now when we’re heading into postseason?”
The win pushes Texas into the Big 12 championship game against rival Oklahoma. Sure, that may add a bit more fire to the game, but it’s unlikely Texas needs any more motivation.
After a season of ups and downs, Texas has a real chance to go sprinting into the postseason with all of its preseason goals still alive.