To advance in the NCAA Tournament, teams need to grab runs whenever they can against opponent’s top flight pitching while utilizing their own ace’s best performances in the most important situations.
Nolan Kingham did just that tonight when he threw 7.2 innings on only 87 pitches, striking out five and giving up one earned run on a home run. Kingham’s stellar outing, along with a home run from Kacy Clemens and RBIs from Travis Jones and Bret Boswell helped the Texas Longhorns move on in the winner’s bracket of the Long Beach regional following a 3-2 win over UCLA.
The game cruised along quickly as Kingham and UCLA starter Griffin Canning tore through the opponent’s lineups for most of the first six innings. Texas ended the stalemate in the fourth when Clemens sent a home run into the right field bullpen to give Texas a 1-0 lead.
Texas added a much needed second run in the seventh inning when Boswell singled to left field to score Travis Jones. UCLA responded in the eighth with a solo home run off of Kingham, who lasted three more batters before being replaced by Beau Ridgeway.
The Longhorns added one more run in the bottom half of the eighth, a run that proved to be vital. Jones sent a double to right field that scored Patrick Mathis, giving the Horns a two run cushion heading into the ninth.
UCLA added one more run in the ninth off of an RBI single, but Ridgeway settled in and sent the Horns on to the winner’s side to await the winner of Long Beach State and San Diego State
Kingham’s outing was one of the more efficient of the season. The game, which zoomed by in just under three hours, was a classic pitcher’s battle. While Griffin Canning is assuredly a first round pick, Kingham matched Canning’s effort and skill pitch for pitch.
Ridgeway came in to a high pressure situation and responded well to earn a four out save.
Kacy Clemens continued to play at the high level he has all season. His solo home run set the tone for the team, and showed the rest of his team that Canning was not untouchable despite his skill.
This win is another huge momentum builder for both the current team and the program. David Pierce worked his way into the postseason with many members of the same team that was under .500 last season.
As his run continues, it is evidence of what could possibly a very bright future on the 40 Acres, regardless of how this season ends.