Texas is going home to Omaha after posting a 5-2 decision against TCU Monday in the NCAA Super Regional at Austin. Texas extends its NCAA record to a 33rd College World Series appearance, the sixth under head coach Augie Garrido.
Two days after Texas set an NCAA record with seven sacrifice bunts, and one day after it couldn’t buy a leadoff runner, a program known this year for its small-ball blew past the high-octane Horned Frogs with power hitting.
“This game is a bitch,” Garrido laughed. “Anytime you think you just don’t have something, it’s exactly the thing that wins the game. Championships are always decided by the unexpected.”
Texas opens CWS play 6 p.m. (CDT) Sunday, June 14 against upstart Southern Mississippi, a squad making its first-ever appearance at Rosenblatt Stadium. The Horns are also bracketed with North Carolina and Arizona State. Texas has not been to Omaha since winning the 2005 national championship, but closer Austin Wood knew a sixth CWS appearance in nine years was in the bag following Garrido’s pre-game pep talk.
“When coach gave us the pre-game speech, I knew we were going to win right then,” Wood commented, before adding, “It was probably the most inspirational speech I ever heard. He revealed how much he wanted it for us, how much he wanted it for himself and how he truly believed in us.”
Texas and TCU both notched seven hits, but the Horns benefited from seven shutout innings. In fact, the Burnt Orange scored all the runs they would need after just one complete inning. RHP Taylor Jungmann raised his mark to 8-3, allowing just two base hits in six frames. He walked one, while fanning five, through 95 pitches. Overall, it was a fearless performance from a freshman making his first Super Regional appearance.
“If you’re not confident,” Jungmann said, “you’re not going to have any success.”
RHP Tyler Lockwood shouldered the loss to finish the season at 4-2. He lasted just 3.1 innings, yielding four runs on as many hits. He managed one strikeout and issued a walk on 61 tosses.
Michael Torres got things started with a lead-off single in the home-half of the first before Brandon Belt’s towering RBI triple bounced off the center field wall. Russell Moldenhauer did his part with an RBI groundout to plate the game’s second run. The Horns weren’t done. Kevin Keyes earmarked a high change-up for beyond the left field fence. (This was one of those no-doubters; Keyes remained at the plate a few moments savoring the monster shot before rounding the bases).
“I know if I hit it hard,” Keyes said, “it’s just going to go. Over-swinging is something I’ve put in the past.”
At that the end of one, Texas had already exceeded its point total from Sunday’s loss by staking a 3-0 lead. The Frogs sent their relievers to the bullpen at the top of the second while Jungmann continued to befuddle batters with a mix of fastballs, breaking balls and tight sliders. He retired 10 straight by the end of the TCU fourth.
Lightning almost struck twice for Keyes. His leadoff double in the home-half of the frame bounced off the right-field wall. He would take third on a passed ball before Brandon Loy grounded out to short, but Lockwood’s night was done. RHP Eric Marshall fanned Preston Clark, setting the stage for a two-out rally. Cameron Rupp launched a high heater deep into left field for a standup RBI-double. Not to be outdone, Connor Rowe’s sizzler up the middle resulted in an RBI single and a 5-0 Longhorn cushion. Bryan Holaday accounted for TCU’s first hit in the top of the fifth when he laced a 3-2 pitch into right field for a seeing-eye single. Rowe’s diving catch in shallow center, however, set the tone for the rest of the inning. The Frogs were quickly retired when Jungmann forced a 6-4-3 double-play. RHP Taylor Craigin took the hill for TCU in the Longhorn fifth. He issued a leadoff single to Travis Tucker but retired the side, including Keyes’ hot bat on three straight strikes.
The Frogs threatened in the top of the sixth, courtesy of a lead-off single followed by a hit-batsman. Jungmann got the lead runner at third on Corey Steglich’s infield chopper. That brought dangerous Taylor Featherston to the plate, but the freshman hit into a 1-6-3 double-play as Jungmann worked out his only jam of the evening.
LHP Austin Wood came on in relief in the TCU seventh and retired the side in order.
1B Brandon Belt committed Texas’ first error of the Super Regional to put a runner on first in the top of the eighth, but Jason Coats hit into his second double-play in as many appearances. Wood issued a stand-up double before surrendering a single to left, putting runners on the corners. Steglich’s RBI single erased the goose egg for the Frogs, prompting a huddle on the hill. Wood then forced a ground-out to end the TCU threat.
“The double-plays in the fifth, the sixth and the eighth were huge momentum shifts,” Garrido observed. “The baseball gods were kinds to us tonight.”
The Frogs did not go quietly in the ninth. Matt Vern laced a one-out triple to deep center and then crossed on Holaday’s RBI single. That’s when Saturday night starter Chance Ruffin was summoned to seal the deal, forcing Chris Ellington’s in-field pop-up to second. Jason Coats was TCU’s last chance, but the freshman went down swinging. Ruffin recorded his second save of the season as the Horns paced their bags for another College World Series.
“Now, this is the beginning of what we’re about,” Garrido concluded. “It’s the same every time we get this opportunity. You have to know how to run the race. And the race is on.”
As in…on to Omaha.