With TCU’s loss and Texas’ win, Longhorns take home share of Big 12 baseball title

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Mitchell Daly started hearing cheers when down 1-2 with nobody out in the bottom of the sixth against WVU’s Ben Abernathy. It wasn’t for something he did. It wasn’t even about anything that occurred at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. Texas fans were celebrating the result of a game almost 700 miles from Austin.

The crowd watching Texas and West Virginia’s Saturday matchup cheered because Kansas State designated hitter Chris Ceballos crushed a game-winning three-run home run against TCU. The result meant Texas needed to defeat the Mountaineers to win a share of the Big 12 regular season championship and earn the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament.

Texas was ahead 10-1 when the Disch rose to its feet. Three innings later, Zach Zubia drove in Eric Kennedy on a sacrifice fly to make the game 12-2. It was a game winning RBI, as the 10-run rule went into effect and the Longhorns mobbed Zubia near first base in celebration.

David Pierce needed help from Kansas State to secure his second Big 12 championship as head coach of the Longhorns. WVU topped Texas on Thursday night, keeping the Longhorns a game back of TCU despite the Horned Frogs’ own Thursday loss. Both teams at the top of the Big 12 standings won game two of their series, meaning Texas could only win a share of the regular season crown and they needed another TCU loss to do so.

Ceballos’ no-doubter capped a seven run ninth inning for KSU. It dropped the Horned Frogs to 17-7, one half game ahead of the Longhorns in the standings. Texas made up that half game and collected another conference championship, the 79th in program history.  

It is Pierce’s fifth career regular season title, joining his 2018 title and three Southland titles while head coach at Sam Houston State. The win almost assures Texas a top eight seed in the NCAA Tournament, meaning the road to the College World Series will once again go through Austin.

The Longhorns lost one conference series in 2021, dropping the first two games against Texas Tech on April 30 and May 1. Every other conference opponent lost at least two of three to the Longhorns, with a being swept as part of Texas 17-7 record.

Ever since a shellacking at the hands of three SEC teams to open the season, Texas became a consistent squad hitting for power and average, fielding efficiently, and possessing speed up and down the lineup. Ivan Melendez led the way at the plate, becoming one of the most feared hitters in the Big 12 in the process.

The starting rotation gelled as it reached its eventual form, and the opening weekend woes became a worry of the past quickly with the performances of Ty Madden, Tristan Stevens, and Pete Hansen.  

Pierce, the 2018 Baseball America coach of the year, sang the praises of his team’s attitude and demeanor throughout the season. After having a promising season canceled in 2020, and with the return of many talented players due to a shortened MLB draft, the program had 2021 circled as a year the team could find itself near the top of the college baseball rankings.

Thanks to returners and rising members of Pierce’s recruiting classes, the Longhorns delivered. They bested nearly every opponent and enter Oklahoma City as the top team in the conference tournament.

Selection Sunday isn’t until May 30, and Texas aims to add the school’s sixth Big 12 Tournament title in the meantime. They have the goal of winning five championships this year: Big 12 regular season, Big 12 Tournament, NCAA regional, NCAA super regional, and College World Series.

One down, four to go.