As always, I really love Trey McClean’s articles. Enjoy! Randy
From the Stands
By Trey McClean
All baseball this week, folks, and since there is nothing going on but baseball (I will not speak of the NBA Finals right now) let’s jump right in.
Texas getting to the Super Regional went exactly as planned, didn’t it? No it did not. I didn’t go as planned, but if you look at how this team has played all season long, then it did go exactly as it should have. The Horns hosted Texas State, Kent State and Princeton last weekend and the end result was as we all expected, but it sure didn’t happen the way we thought it would. Let’s take a look:
Texas 5 Princeton 3
The Horns got on the board with two in the bottom of the first and while the Tigers didn’t lie down, Texas never trailed. Sam Stafford, getting his first-ever post-season start, walked three and gave up two hits and one run in seven innings while striking out six. Stafford came up big, matching his longest outing of the year with his seven innings pitched. Tant Shepherd, leading off the game, had two RBI’s and Mark Payton had two hits to pace the Horns. Everyone probably expected to see the Texas offense open it up against Princeton, but the Tigers actually outhit Texas, 6-5, on the day. A win is a win, though, and Texas was onto Saturday to play Kent State, who beat Texas State in the first game on Friday.
Kent State 7 Texas 5
With Stafford getting the win Friday, Texas trotted out the best pitcher in the Big 12 and the national leader in ERA. I said last week that Taylor Jungmann was “an automatic win.” It reminds me of when I said, with Dallas leading 2-0 in the 2006 NBA Finals and Dirk Nowitski at the foul line late in the game, “he doesn’t miss free throws.” He did. Both of them. And Dallas lost, and the rest is history. I will not be making any more blanket statements like that. I blame myself for the loss. Everything was going according to plan. The Golden Flashes jumped out early, but Texas responded with two runs to take the lead, 2-1. Then the wheels came off in the sixth. Jungmann walked the lead-off batter and two singles later, the bases were loaded. David Lyon hammered a 1-2 pitch out, shocking the home crowd with the grand slam and giving Kent State a 5-2 lead. Jungmann got two outs consecutively after that, but a walk and an infield single ran Jungmann from the game. A double steal and single later, the score was 7-2, Golden Flashes. The Horns rallied in the ninth, getting a three-run homer from Kevin Lusson to cut the lead to 7-5. Texas had runners on the corners when the hottest hitter in the Texas lineup, Tant Shepherd, popped up to second to end the game.
The loss was the first of the season for Taylor Jungmann and the first home loss of his entire career. The Horns were a little shellshocked in the aftermath, in my opinion. They were probably blaming me, too. Texas was now in an elimination game against Texas State, who knocked out Princeton Saturday afternoon, on Sunday. A win meant another game Sunday night with undefeated Kent State, who Texas would need to beat and face again Monday to advance.
Texas 4, Texas State 3
Cole Green, the senior, took the mound for Texas and looked sharp, striking out eight, walking none and allowing four hits in eight innings of work. The problem was one of those four hits was a two-run homer in the fourth. A lead-off single was followed by that two-run homer and the Horns were down, 2-0. After a botched butcher boy play (with a runner at first the batter faked a bunt, only to pull the bat back and swing away) resulted in a double play, the Horns looked a little lost and uncertain. The hits were piling up, but they couldn’t score. In the bottom of the fourth, Texas had the bases loaded twice, but only managed to get one run across the plate. Texas again loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth, but only two runs would score (an RBI single and a passed ball), which gave Texas a 3-2 lead. It was a lead they would hold until the ninth. Trailing 3-2, the Bobcats made their last move. A lead-off single lead to a stolen base attempt, and an errant throw from the catcher put the tying run on third. A sac fly tied the game at 3 and it looked like all the hits that produced only three runs might come back to haunt Texas.
Well think again. Tim Maitland, a defensive substitution that entered in the eighth, led off the bottom of the ninth with a drag bunt for a single. A sac bunt and an intentional walk to Erich Weiss put runners at first and second and a walk to Paul Montalbano loaded the bases with one out. Kevin Lusson ended the game with a walk-off single, giving Texas a 4-3 win and ending Texas State’ season. This game had all the drama of a playoff game and seemed to be as intense as any in the Regional. The Horns lived to fight another day. Check that, lived to fight later that day. The reward for the 100-degree 1 pm game was a 95-degree 6 pm game with Kent State.
Texas 9, Kent State 3
You could see the confidence return to the No.7 national seed immediately on Sunday night. The Horns, visitors that night put three runs on the board in the top of the first. A lead-off single by Shepherd led to sac bunt, and a single from Brandon Loy scored Shepherd from second. A single from Erich Weiss and a double steal put runners at second and third and a Paul Montalbano ground out scored Loy. A Jonathan Walsh double scored Weiss and just like that, it was 3-0 Texas before Kent State even got to bat. Texas would never trail and the final nail came when Kevin Lusson hit his second 9th-inning, 3-run homer in as many days against Kent State, giving Texas a 9-3 win. It was a group effort from the Horns’ pitching staff with Nathan Thornhill getting the win after 3.2 innings of relief work. The staff did exactly what they needed to do and the bats arrived in a big way to get Texas their second win of the day and into a one-game playoff for the Super Regional berth. A rematch awaited on Monday.
Texas 5, Kent State 0
Augie Garrido said in regards to his pitching staff that Monday’s game was “all hands on deck..” meaning everyone would be available if need be. The Horns started game one starter Sam Stafford and on just two days’ rest, he was terrific. He allowed no runs, one walk and only three hits in 3.2 innings of work, turning it over to the bullpen. Hoby Milner, Cole Green, Taylor Jungmann and Kendal Carrillo all pitched and closer Corey Knebel finished it off in the ninth, holding the Flashes that were Gold to no runs and only two more hits the rest of the way. With a monster collective pitching effort like that, anything the bats could add would be enough. Playing their small-ball game, Texas struck first in the first. A double by Shepherd to start the game was followed with a Mark Payton bunt. It was a great bunt so he was going to be safe, but in the attempt to throw out the speedy Payton at first the ball was airmailed into right field. The throwing error allowed Shepherd to score and Texas was up, 1-0. Honestly even in the first inning you could kind of tell that Texas was not done scoring and this might be a long day for Kent State. Texas was dominant in the field and on the mound, and as the 1-0 lead moved to 2-0, then 3, then 4; you knew the game was over. Kent tried to rally in the ninth, but a wicked diving catch by second baseman Jordan Etier ended any hopes of a rally and the Horns moved on to the Super Regional.
All season long this Texas team has been at times a little unfocused and that seemed to be the case this weekend, too. Some timely hitting from Kent State seemed to unnerve them Saturday night, but they fought through it and responded to win two on Sunday and one Monday to seal up the Regional. And that’s the bottom line- this team responds to pressure. They usually start a series aggressively and win the opener, win game two and seem to be less than 100% in it for game three, and that’s where the conference losses would happen. On those rare occasions they lost a Saturday game, they responded with a Sunday win every time except one (the series loss to Oklahoma State) and with Jungmann on the mound they never lost on a Friday. The Horns can’t afford to take a day off next weekend with the Arizona State Sun Devils coming to town. With the stakes this high and a CWS berth on the line, I think Texas will be fully in the moment.
Arizona State (42-16) @ No.7 Texas (46-16)
Friday, June 10th
Saturday, June 11th
Saturday, June 11th
CLICK LINK TO CONTINUE