The NBA Finals were set earlier in the evening but on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, UFCU Disch-Falk Field was where amazing happened. The Texas Longhorns and Boston College Eagles squared off in what will surely go down as one of the greatest games in the history of college baseball and it took 25 innings to finally reach a decision.
Austin Wood turned in one of the greatest pitching performances in Longhorn history and a Travis Tucker single drove in Connor Rowe with the winning run in the top of the 25th inning early Sunday morning as Texas beat Boston College 3-2 in the longest-ever NCAA baseball game. The Horns will face the winner of the noon elimination game between Army and Boston College at 6 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Wood took over for starter Chance Ruffin with one out in the seventh in a 2-2 game and pitched 13 scoreless innings before giving way to Austin Dicharry with one out in the 20th. After taking over for starter Ruffin, Wood pitched 12-1/3 no-hit innings before giving up a single in the bottom of the 19th. Over 13 innings, he gave up just two hits and four walks while striking out 14.
“The best pitching performance in my 41 years of head coaching, what Austin Wood did for us tonight,” said Longhorn Head Coach Augie Garrido. “I’ve seen some great pitching performances for us and against us but none any more courageous and important than what Austin Wood did tonight.”
According to Garrido, Wood wouldn’t allow himself to be taken out of the game despite the innings pitched piling up.
“In the dugout, Skip [Johnson] and I were talking about him and whether he should come out or stay in. He walked by both of us and said, ‘I’m not coming out of this game.'”
Wood started 12 games as a sophomore, but his 169 pitches in 13 innings were by far the most in his Longhorn career. “I have no idea how I did that,” said Wood. “I can’t really believe I went 13 innings but I just did what they needed me to.”
He exited the game to a still near-full stadium chanting his name and even the Eagles dugout paid their respects by giving him a hand.
“That was the first time I’ve ever been on second base and heard, ‘Thank God that guy is done,’ from the other team,” said Travis Tucker.
Tucker played a pretty big part in deciding the outcome and that came six innings later. Tucker picked up his second hit since leading off the game with a single 24 innings earlier — what turned out to be the clincher.
Connor Rowe led off the 25th with a single into left field and was sacrificed over by David Hernandez. He moved to third on a wild pitch and with two strikes and the infield in, Tucker pushed one just past the diving BC second baseman into the outfield, plating the first run in 19 innings. Dicharry entered in relief of Wood and was equally impressive over the final 5-2/3 innings as he earned the win, his eighth of the season. He allowed one hit, one walk and struck out four.
Who knew at the time that the two-run shot into the Texas bullpen from Kevin Keyes in the second inning would be the last run scored by the Longhorns for 23 frames? Preston Clark added three doubles and scored on the homer from Keyes. Keyes’ round-tripper was one of 20 hits on the game for the Horns, but the last that plated a run till the decisive 25th. Texas stranded 24 base runners on the night, including runners in scoring position in the 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd innings. Clark paced the Horns with four hits (in 11 at bats!). Connor Rowe totaled three hits while Keyes, Tucker, Brandon Belt (DHing after suffering a blow to the head in the first inning of the regional opener that sent him to the hospital Friday night), Cameron Rupp, Brandon Loy and David Hernandez each tallied two hits.
Boston College DH/pitcher Mike Belfiore had an exceptional performance as well, holding his team in the game through 9-2/3 innings of three-hit baseball. He struck out 11, walked none and also had nine at bats in the tough no-decision.
Boston College scored single runs in the fourth and the sixth off of Ruffin to tie things up and set up the extra inning dramatics. The Eagles finished with eight hits and had runners in scoring position in the 19th, 20th and 24th innings but couldn’t touch Wood or Dicharry for hits in those situations.
They cleared the 10-inning scoreboard twice – the second time it read all zeros across the board for both teams. A closer pitched 13 innings of scoreless relief in a must-win situation. It took seven hours and three minutes for the longest game in NCAA history to be decided and the Longhorns only used three pitchers.
“The greatest value of it was they changed as the game went,” said Garrido. “They got more together, more excited. You hear about the baseball gods, I’m not sure about that, but there is something.”
Gloves were thrown, chests were pounded, and The Eyes of Texas could be heard loud and clear from the almost full stadium of Longhorn faithful after Dicharry retired the Eagles in order in the bottom of the 25th. Boston College will face Army, which eliminated Texas State Saturday afternoon, at noon on Sunday in an elimination game. Brandon Workman or Taylor Jungmann will be waiting for the winner of that Eagles-Black Knights matchup at 6 p.m. A Longhorn win in that one will send Texas to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since its last national title run in 2005. A loss and the two teams will square off on Monday at 1 in a winner-take-all regional title game.
“What I hope comes from this win is another level of confidence that the players have earned,” Garrido said. “I hope they can build off the spirit that they showed tonight and the courage that they showed tonight. I hope this enriches their confidence, because to win the National Championship, you have to continue to develop not only your physical game but your mental game. Tonight can go a long way to establish a new level of confidence and togetherness that the players have already shown.”
[Clendon Ross contributed to this report.]