A group effort from the Texas Longhorns pitching staff and some big swings by Kody Clemens and DJ Petrinsky led the Horns to a 5-2 win over the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles in front of a packed house at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Monday.
After dropping the opening game on Saturday, Texas held the nation’s most prolific offense to only four combined runs over the last two games to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2014.
Head coach David Pierce’s team will face either Arkansas or South Carolina following the conclusion of the Fayetteville Super Regional on Monday evening.
Six pitchers took the mound for Texas on Monday, with Parker Joe Robinson escaping a bases loaded jam in relief in the sixth inning and Saturday starter Nolan Kingham doing the same in the ninth. Robinson gave up a hit to lead off the inning, Andy McGuire got an out but also gave up a walk, and Kingham allowed a free pass as well before ending the threat and the game with a groundout to second base.
Welcome back to Omaha, Horns!— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 11, 2018
For the 3️⃣6️⃣th time in program history and first since 2014, @TexasBaseball is headed to the College World Series! The most all-time trips to the #CWS. pic.twitter.com/OgVUKhLMWK
In all, the Texas staff escaped despite walking seven batters on the day, a notable decay in command compared to the Austin Regional.
Italian-born pitcher Matteo Bocchi earned his fourth start of the season for the Longhorns and pitched a career-high five innings, allowing only five hits and one run with one walk and three strikeouts. Through the first two innings, Bocchi retired all six Golden Eagles in order, showing good command and sink on his pitches to give the offense a chance to strike first.
The Horns threatened in the second inning following a leadoff walk to DJ Petrinsky and a wind-aided double off the wall in left field by Masen Hibbeler. However, because it initially appeared as if the left fielder was in position to make the catch, Petrinsky wasn’t able to score. When Tate Shaw grounded to third, Trevor Putzig easily gunned down Petrinsky at the plate after the catcher was off on contact.
With two outs, Reynolds missed a hittable pitch on a 2-2 count, then came through with a drive into the left-center gap to score two runs and take a 2-0 lead. With a left-handed pitcher on the mound, Reynolds had an opportunity to hit from the right side after largely struggling since he started hitting left-handed again. He had been 3-20 in the postseason prior to his double.
Bocchi finally got into some trouble in the top of the third with a leadoff walk. A groundout didn’t result in a double play when the umpire ruled the runner safe at first, though a replay showed he was out by the slimmest of margins. A base hit put two runners on base when leadoff hitter Alex Junior dropped a bunt that forced Bocchi to make a sliding play. The throw narrowly beat Junior to the bag.
With runners on second and third and Tennessee Tech with a chance to tie the game, Bocchi made two good 2-2 pitches that were fouled off before he painted the inside corner for a huge called third strike to end the threat.
The big bats for the Longhorns came out in the third inning during the second time through the order. Kody Clemens got a pitch low and outside and took it that way, taking advantage of the wind for his fourth home run of the series and 24th overall.
Not to be outdone, Petrinsky didn’t need any help when he sent a line drive over the short wall in left field for a 4-0 lead.
The Golden Eagles had been warming up closer Ethan Roberts in the bullpen during the second inning and the decision to keep Alex Hursey in the game backfired — the Horns were able to put some big swings on the junior.
A leadoff double helped Tennessee Tech get on the board thanks to a single by the hobbled Putzig, who played through a hamstring injury. However, Bocchi was able to limit the damage to one run in getting through his fourth inning of work. And even though it looked as if the junior pitcher was finished, he came out for his fifth inning and made it the longest outing of his career with a scoreless frame.
The decision to remove Bocchi in the next inning didn’t pay off, as Blair Henley couldn’t get a feel for his pitches after a three-inning save on Sunday. Henley walked both batters he faced and sent one pitch to the backstop. Josh Sawyer got an out by forcing a groundout by Chase Chambers, but walked the next batter and departed for Parker Joe Robinson with the bases loaded.
Robinson got ahead 0-2, but David Garza battled and drove a ball deep into right field for a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 4-2. After a groundout, Robinson retired the Golden Eagles and limited the damage to the single run.
After failing to get to closer Ethan Roberts through his first two innings of work, the Horns got a run back when Tate Shaw reached on a bunt and beat out a play at second on a ground ball from Reynolds. The inning appeared over when David Hamilton popped up near home plate, but Chase Chambers dropped the ball and Shaw scored from second to extend the lead to 5-2.
Roberts otherwise held the Longhorns in check over 3.1 innings of work and eventually departed after throwing 377 pitches in the NCAA tournament and was perhaps more emotional coming off the mound than he was on it during the Austin Regional. Roberts once again turned in an impressive performance, though the Horns were able to score the unearned run against Tennessee Tech’s best pitcher.
Fortunately for Texas, the four runs scored against Hursey were enough to carry the day as the Longhorns held up on the mound despite the constant threat posed by the Golden Eagles offense.
And so after sitting at 9-9 early in the season, Pierce and his team are headed to the most hallowed site in college baseball for a chance to claim the school’s seventh national championship, a testament to this team’s toughness.
What a team. What a series. What a win.