The Texas Longhorns (42-13-1) opened postseason regional play with a 3-1 win over the Army Black Knights Friday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin. Winning pitcher Cole Green (pictured, left) gave up only four hits and notched six strikeouts over seven innings but that isn’t why he got two standing ovations.
After first baseman Brandon Belt took a fastball to the back of the head in the first inning, DH Preston Clark had to take Belt’s spot at first, leaving his DH duties for Green. Despite the fact that he hadn’t made an at-bat since the summer after his senior year of high school, Green went 1-for-1 with a sacrifice bunt.“At first when Belt got injured, I thought there was some way we were going to have another DH or have something go right,” said Green. “Coach looked at me and said, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to hit.’ I thought I was up next. Fortunately, I was up last.”Green’s turn at the plate finally came in the third. With no outs and Travis Tucker on first, Green laid down a sac bunt that put Tucker on second and brought the fans to their feet. Head coach Augie Garrido said it was probably the first standing ovation he’s ever seen for a sac bunt, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t well deserved.“If it hadn’t been for the magic of Cole Green, this could have been a different game all together,” Garrido said. “Cole proved that this game is really not that difficult. You hit the ball. You throw it over the plate and strike people out. You give them one run. You give them four hits. You lay down a perfect bunt after not practicing.”Tucker was gunned down trying to give the Horns their first run, but third baseman Michael Torres was close behind. After cranking a double and stealing third, Cameron Rupp plated Torres with a shallow single to centerfield to give Texas a 1-0 lead at the end of the third. The Horns capitalized on consecutive sac bunts in the fourth and a lead-off double by Clark in the sixth to inflate their lead to 3-0. The Black Knights broke the shutout in the seventh after consecutive hits put men at the corners with no outs. A sac fly to left field by J.P. Polchinski drove in Kevin McKague and gave Army its lone run.Senior reliever Austin Wood took the mound in the eighth and faced only seven batters to seal the deal for the Longhorns.“We felt great,” said Clark. “Taking the first game is huge for us. Now we just have to build on that and carry it to the next game.”Clark paced the offense, going 2-for-4 with a double and Wood logged his 15th save of the season.“(Texas) did what was necessary to win,” said Army head coach Joe Sottolano. “They obviously showed that they can execute and push guys across to score runs, and they did it well. They are obviously a well-coached team, disciplined team.”Garrido said Belt would be staying overnight at the hospital for observation but he is expected to be back on the field when the Longhorns face Boston College Saturday night.Army will now face Texas State in an elimination game at noon Saturday. Texas and Boston College will follow at 6 p.m. in a winner’s bracket game. BC rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the regional opener vs. the Bobcats with six runs in the top of the ninth and then held off a Texas State rally in the bottom of the inning for the 8-7 win.
The winner Saturday night between the Horns and the Eagles will need just one more win to take the regional title. Chance Ruffin (9-2, 2.96 ERA) is expected to take the hill for Texas. Boston College is expected to counter with lefty Pat Dean (6-4, 3.36 ERA) or rightie John Leonard (1-4, 7.24 ERA).