Golden: Texas arms are key to College World Series chase
Horns have held first two regional opponents to three runs.
- After 10-3 win over Arizona State, Horns are one win from super regionals.
- Tristan Stephens and Ty Madden have delivered two quality starts.
Ty Madden didn’t have his best command on Saturday night, but he was still … well, Ty Madden.
Texas’ ace and partners in crime Tristan Stephens, Pete Hansen and young Tanner Witt represent the blueprint Texas has followed to a tee in this Austin Regional.
A quality, deep pitching staff travels in a tournament format. When those arms are giving opponents the business before a raucous home crowd, it’s even better.
Madden, a right-hander operating in the final month of his college career before an MLB team makes him a millionaire with a top-10 pick this summer, went six workmanlike innings in the 10-3 semifinal win over Arizona State and provided his usual Friday night production on a Saturday.
He touched 99 miles per hour on the gun and blew it by seven strikeout victims while pitching to induce some timely grounders when the Sun Devils threatened, especially in the fifth when they loaded the bases with one out. It wasn’t a vintage performance — he walked four — but it was plenty good enough to help move his team one step closer to the desired destination.
So loose was Madden that during the third inning he stayed warm in the dugout by throwing to the highest-paid bullpen catcher in college baseball — pitching coach Sean Allen.
“I want to give props to Coach Allen,” he said. “It’s not the catcher in the dugout or the locker room. It’s Coach Allen squatting and catching me.”
Madden and his teammates are playing free and loose, and who can blame them since they just improved to 29-5 at the Disch? Better yet, they put in major work to earn this No. 2 seed and are playing to the ranking, unlike in the Gainesville Regional, whose host — Florida, a team many of us pictured rolling into the 512 for a super-regional rematch of the 2005 College World Series finals — went 2 and cue and ended the season with a soul-taking 19-1 loss to South Alabama.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, the Gators were forced to endure a two-hour rain delay while trailing by 18 in the seventh. Good times.
That regional will sort itself out, but as for events in Austin, the Texas arms are carrying the weekend and giving us what we’ve seen all season. The 2.91 ERA that ranked second nationally to Fairfield — the lone Austin regional opponent the Horns have yet to play — wasn’t earned overnight, but over one of the best pitching seasons in quite some time.
Madden’s quality start came one day after Stephens opened the regional with seven dominant shutout innings against Southern. In all, Texas head coach David Pierce and Allen have been perfect in their usage of this staff. Hansen, a lefty, will get the start Sunday and fresh-armed receivers Cole Quintanilla and Aaron Nixon will be there if needed.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Madden said. “This team’s got a lot of confidence right now, and you’ve got to feel good having Pete Hansen on the mound (tomorrow). We’re ready to roll.”
The staff is fresh and formidable, and things are getting even rosier for Longhorns fans who have witnessed this offense returning to form over the past two games. To steal a line from Stevie Ray, the Disch was a rockin' on Saturday because the bats were a knockin'. As an announced crowd of 6,981 — a few butts from capacity — roared its approval, Texas took advantage of ASU starter Justin Fall’s control issues for three runs without the benefit of hitting the ball past the pitcher, then poured it on later with Zach Zubia blasting a two-run shot off the center field monster in the fourth.
If you’re a Texas fan, this team is coming together at the perfect time. Through two days, the Horns are right where they need to be. We knew what we would get from this pitching staff, but the offense was a question mark after riding the struggle bus at the Big 12 Tournament with an anemic .181 average and 47 strikeouts.
Well, the 44-15 Horns just jumped off the struggle bus and climbed behind the wheel of a runaway locomotive. They have outscored their first two opponents 21-3 and sit just one win away from a super regional and a golden opportunity to return to the College World Series for the second time in David Pierce’s tenure and a record 37th time in the tournament’s history.
Texas is holding all the cards, or the arms, in this case.
With that said, Pierce doesn’t do complacency very well. It's an enemy he has cautioned his locker room to avoid at all costs.
“It kind of sets us up for (Sunday),” Pierce said. “But we can’t get comfortable. We have to understand. Pete has to go out there and pitch a great game. Cole has got to be ready, the same with Nixon.”
Funny thing about these two wins? The Horns have dominated but haven't even played their best baseball yet.
Great pitching has been the key and will remain the steadying hand of this title run moving forward.