These Longhorns, they still don’t dogpile. At least not until Omaha.
On Sunday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, fist pumps and a few firings of Smokey the cannon had to do.
Texas survived a frantic finish and claimed the Austin regional with a wild win over Indiana. With the 3-2 win — UT’s third triumph of the weekend — Texas advanced to the super regionals for the first time since 2014. This will be the 10th all-time appearance in the super regionals for UT (40-20).
“I stated earlier this week it’s every kid’s dream to throw in a regional, and now it’s every kid’s dream to throw in a super regional,” junior pitcher Chase Shugart said. “We got past week one and we’re looking forward to going into week two. It’s the same emotions as always.”
The battle between the Longhorns and Hoosiers lasted over three hours. A 59-minute span in the eighth and ninth innings, however, kept both dugouts and an announced crowd of 6,855 sweating on a 92-degree evening.
Leading 3-2, Texas coach David Pierce pulled starter Blair Henley with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Left-handed reliever Josh Sawyer recorded a strikeout and allowed a single before Pierce made another call to the bullpen. Junior Parker Joe Robinson then served up a double to Indiana clean-up hitter Matt Gorski.
Gorski’s double to left field, however, was of the ground-rule variety as it bounced into the Indiana bullpen. The call forced Luke Miller to stop at third base. That sequence may have not happened had Texas not lowered that exact fence ahead of Pierce’s first season at Texas.
“Just the way the ball bounces sometimes, it’s the game of baseball,” Indiana coach Chris Lemonis said. “Sometimes you get the good bounce and sometimes you don’t. Great at-bat by Matt right there, just tough luck.”
With two runners in scoring position, Texas third baseman Ryan Reynolds ended the threat with a barehanded play on a slow-rolling grounder. The play served as atonement for Reynolds, whose third-inning error led to two unearned runs. The highlight also one-upped a barehanded relay that Reynolds made against Long Beach State in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Texas turned to closer Andy McGuire in the ninth inning, but an eighth save was not in the cards after he loaded the bases with one out. Two days after a six-inning start against Texas Southern, Shugart entered and ended the game with two strikeouts.
The jubilant reaction following Shugart’s second strikeout was actually Texas’ second celebration of the 11 o’clock hour. Just before the game-ending strikeout, Indiana first baseman Matt Lloyd hit a foul ball into the left field stands that outfielder Masen Hibbeler appeared to snag. As the Longhorns poured onto the field to celebrate, though, it was ruled that Hibbeler did not complete the catch.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 4, 2018
After seeing third-base umpire Tim Vessey make his call, Shugart attempted to refocus and clear his teammates from the mound “because that was my territory at that moment.” Shugart then blew a pitch by Lloyd for his seventh strikeout of the regional.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Texas junior Kody Clemens, whose seventh-inning double plated David Hamilton and the winning run. “This is what we’ve worked for starting in September. I was talking about it earlier, this team has the best chemistry I’ve ever had at UT.”
Texas will meet either Ole Miss or Tennessee Tech in the super regionals. Ole Miss and Tennessee Tech will decide their regional on Monday. After dropping a 9-8 decision to the Rebels on Sunday, Tennessee Tech must beat Ole Miss twice in order to advance.
If Ole Miss wins its regional, Texas will travel to Oxford, Miss., later in the week for a best-of-three series. Texas will host Tennessee Tech if the Golden Eagles are victorious.
Around the bases: Henley allowed six hits and no walks, and his eight strikeouts tied a career-high. … Texas designated hitter Zach Zubia tied the game in the sixth inning with his 11th home run. Zubia hadn’t homered at UFCU Disch-Falk Field since April 20. … Clemens was named the MVP of the Austin regional. He and Hamilton, who is UT’s shortstop, were joined on the all-regional team by catcher DJ Petrinsky, outfielder Duke Ellis and pitcher Nolan Kingham. … Indiana, which beat Texas A&M earlier in the day, finished its season with a 40-19 record.