When Texas A&M was announced as one of the three teams traveling to Austin for an NCAA Tournament regional, this was the outcome the committee, fans of both teams, and (most likely) both teams wanted to see.
Texas A&M cruised past Indiana Friday afternoon in a 10-3 victory to complete one half of the equation. In the ensuing night game, regional host Texas completed its half. Juniors Chase Shugart and Matteo Bocchi combined to shut out the Texas Southern Tigers while junior DJ Petrinsky’s four RBI performance paced the Longhorn offense in a 10-0 victory.
Neither Longhorn pitcher issued a walk in the easy Texas victory. Shugart allowed four hits in his outing, going six innings on just 69 pitches and earning the victory. Bocchi, in his first career NCAA Tournament appearance, allowed one hit and struck out six over the course of his three inning save.
“Great efficiency from our pitching staff tonight with Chase and Bocchi,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “They did a great job of really attacking the zone, and tremendous, tremendous defense.”
As Shugart kept rolling through the first few innings, Texas bats began to come to life against TSU’s Peyton Schneider. Schneider entered the game with a 5.43 ERA. He exited with it sitting at 6.01.
Texas scored two in the second when Petrinsky scored on a Schneider throwing error while trying to pick off junior Tate Shaw. Then, sophomore David Hamilton’s bunt single gave Shaw plenty of time to score from to give Texas a 2-0 lead.
The Longhorns gave up small ball in the fourth. With two on, Petrinsky hit a no-doubter over the left field fence on the first pitch of the at bat to give Texas a 5-0 lead. After the game, he said he knew immediately it was gone.
“I went up there the second time hoping he’d throw me another one,” Petrinsky said. “He did.”
A RBI single from sophomore Duke Ellis gave Texas its sixth run, and a bloop single by junior Kody Clemens in the fifth plated runs seven and eight. The next at bat, Hamilton broke for home while Clemens broke for second. TSU’s pitcher paid a split-second of attention to Clemens, giving Hamilton the opportunity to slide into home safely. It was the first steal of home in Hamilton’s baseball career.
Petrinsky added his fourth RBI on the night when his single brought home senior Jake McKenzie in the eighth.
Texas’ pitching and defense shut down the Tigers’ potent running game. Only one Texas Southern runner made it to second. Texas turned two double plays, and Texas Southern was limited enough to where they only had three runners left on base.
“I’m just proud of the way we came out and played,” Pierce said. “We were ready to play and it was obvious we were ready to play. The guys expected the ball, wanted the ball hit to them, and just made some tremendous plays. For us to be able to execute the way we did and be that efficient was about as good as you can expect.”
For Shugart, he likely turned in his best performance of the year at the best time.
“I felt like tonight I was myself all six innings,” Shugart said. “I was composed. I was pitching with emotion and with that edge I usually have. I was in my rhythm. I was letting my defense work and I was also making pitches in counts I needed to make pitches in.”
Now, the attention turns toward advancing in the winner’s bracket to reach the regional final. Standing in Texas’ way are the Texas A&M Aggies.
A&M threw John Doxakis against Indiana earlier Friday, leaving Mitchell Kilkenny available to face the Longhorns. After Friday’s win Pierce said Nolan Kingham would get the start against the Aggies despite struggling with what Pierce described as a viral infection throughout the week. “He’s ready,” Pierce said.
Shugart’s relatively short outing of 69 pitches means he could be available to pitch for the Longhorns on Sunday or Monday.
“I’m giving you my best in this one-on-one confrontation with me and the hitter,” Shugart said. “I’m going to take that mindset if I’m used in the back end of the bullpen on Sunday or if I’m starting on Monday, it doesn’t matter. I’m ready to go.”
Tomorrow, however, he expects one of the best Disch-Falk environments of the year. Normally players who aren’t available are tasked with energizing the dugout. With the opponent tomorrow, he doubted it would be a difficult task.
“This place is going to be electric tomorrow,” Shugart said. “With me not being able to go tomorrow, it’s going to be my job in the dugout to keep everybody excited and hyped up. I don’t think I’m going to have to do that because everybody’s going to be ready to go.”
First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.