The #13 Texas Longhorns defeated the Indiana Hoosiers by a final score of 3-2 to secure a Regional victory and a trip to the Super Regionals against the winner of the Oxford Regional. It is the Longhorns’ tenth overall trip to the Super Regional round and first since 2014, where Texas would eventually advance to the College World Series.
Though this game’s scoring plays were few and far between, it was still as loaded with highlights, incredible play, and pivotal moments as any game Texas has played this year.
Scoring opened up in the second inning, as the Horns would put their mark on the game first. With runners on first third and with no outs, DJ Petrinsky laced a grounder to the Hoosier’s second baseman. Indiana traded the two outs and the double play for a Texas run as Hibbeler came in unopposed, giving the Longhorns the first lead of the game, 1-0.
Indiana would respond an inning later in the third. A pair of singles coupled with a Ryan Reynolds error would eventually lead to two Hoosiers crossing the plate, erasing the Longhorns lead and pushing the Hoosier lead to 2-1.
After the third inning, the rowdy UFCU Disch-Falk Field fell into a bit of a lull, as both the Texas and Indiana bats would falter as both starting pitchers would settle into their grooves.
A Zach Zubia solo blast over the deepest part of the ballpark in the top of the sixth inning would change that. On a home run that left the Disch faster than the Aggies following their early regional exit this afternoon, Zubia would erase the Hoosier lead and tie the game at two, as the reinvigorated 6,000+ fans in attendance roared and cheered the freshman slugger to a curtain call from the dugout after the biggest home run of his young career.
It wouldnt take long for Texas to move from stalemate to a frontrunner position. In the seventh inning, a sharply hit David Hamilton single would put a runner on base for Big 12 Player of the Year, All-American, and hopefully National Player of the Year, Kody Clemens. After working a full count, Clemens ripped a double to right field that reached the wall, plating Hamilton from first base and re-establishing the Longhorn lead at 3-2 Texas.
As this team has managed to do all season, they dug themselves out from underneath a deficit to retake the lead in come from behind fashion. Although Kody Clemens coming through in the clutch is nothing we as Texas fans haven’t seen before, the Disch was as loud and weird as it’s ever been.
After recording an out in the bottom of the eighth, Texas starter Blair Henley was pulled after an incredible performance. His only blemish on an otherwise sterling resume came from an inning littered with weak singles and the only error of the game - you couldn’t ask for much better.
Blair Henley: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
Unfortunately for the Longhorns, the relief work was erratic and added some late-game tension to an already razor-thin close ballgame. Josh Sawyer came on for Henley, and would allow a runner on to first base. Joe Parker Robinson would relieve him, and allowed another runner on and for the base runners to advance to second and third base with two outs in the inning. With Indiana threatening to tie, a slow dribbler up the third base line looked certain to score a Hoosier from third.
However, third baseman Ryan Reynolds made an incredible bare handed throw on the run to first that just barely beat out the runner. Texas would advance to the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead, just three outs away from the next round of NCAA Tournament baseball.
Manager David Pierce called on Andy McGuire to close out the game and to start the ninth. McGuire, following in the shaky, hold-your-breath footsteps of Sawyer and Robinson, allowed the first two batters on board before recording his first out - a strikeout. After McGuire walked the next batter on four pitches, Pierce had enough of the usual reliever roundup and called on Chase Shugart to come in with the bases loaded to close the door on the Indiana comeback.
Shugart immediately hit the mound and attacked the Hoosier batters, striking out the first batter he faced on four pitches - all of them for strikes. The next batter up took a pitch for a ball, and then popped up to the left field wall in foul territory, where Masen Hibbler made an incredible over-the-wall grab that secured the Longhorns third out of the inning and a trip to the Super Regionals.
Except that catch only lasted for a good half second.
While the Longhorns began celebrating their thrilling 3-2 win over the Hoosiers, the third base umpire adamantly declared the catch was no good, and that the inning would continue. Though the Disch did a fantastic job letting the umpire know what they thought of the call, I’ll let you decide.
Catch or no catch??— Patrick Moore (@PatrickWEHT) June 4, 2018
Umps say Texas LF Masen Hibbeler didn't finish the catch on this foul ball vs Indiana for the final out of the game
Hibbeler clearly not happy about the call... pic.twitter.com/SQGz9ISsCC
Either way, Texas just went from celebrating a victory to needing two more strikes. With the bases loaded and emotions running high, it fell on Chase Shugart to make good throws and get just two more strikes or a playable ball in the field, and the catch/ no-catch would avoid living on in history as if it were a Dez Bryant drop in Green Bay.
With the bases loaded, a hit in the outfield would most likely win the game for Indiana. The weight of the game and the regional series on his shoulders, Shugart readied himself on the mound. It took him just three more pitches, all strikes, to get the batter out on a called strike three. Texas sealed the victory, and the Austin regional, 3-2 over Indiana.
In recent years of being a Texas fan, I can truly say I’ve seen so many different ways a team can lose a game - all as heartbreaking or frustrating as the last. After the catch that wasn’t from Hibbeler, I was convinced this would be another story in the long book of weird recent Texas losses. I’ve seen coaches elect to kick off twice in a football game, and kickers miss game tying extra points. I’ve seen basketball coaches call timeouts in between free throws, just to forget to draw up any kind of good in bounds play, along with countless buzzer beaters go in that sunk the Horns.
Most memorably, I’ve even listened to announcers declare Texas as back, when it may or may not have been “back” at that moment.
But in the case of baseball, and in the Super Regionals, there’s no denying that Texas is back folks.
The next game for the Longhorns will be this weekend. Location, time, and opponent is TBD, as the ‘Horns await the winner of the Oxford Regional. If Ole Miss wins, then those games would take place in Oxford. If Tennessee Tech manages to win twice against Ole Miss, then baseball will return to Austin one last time this season.
If this was the final game at the Disch this year, then what a game to tie off the home season with.