Bohls: Texas manufactures runs, makes mockery of postseason with routs
- In five NCAA post-season games, Texas won all five, trailed for half an inning and won in routs.
- Tristan Stevens had a stellar defensive play and a strong five-plus innings of work.
- "We never give in, and eventually we just wear people down," head coach David Pierce said.
We’ve got breaking news.
Texas actually trailed in this NCAA postseason baseball tournament. No, really. Well, OK, for half an inning.
Then, the No. 2 Longhorns came to bat and put up a 4-spot to erase South Florida’s two-run second-inning lead Sunday night and never looked back.
Yeah, so much for adversity.
Sunday night wasn’t so much about defeating a worthy opponent to get to Omaha. This was sheer domination in the highest form.
Texas just made a mockery of the competition in the regional and super regional, ultimately crushing the Bulls 12-4 to secure a berth in the College World Series to continue an impressive run with one runaway victory after the other in one of the most stress-free paths to Omaha in school history.
In five postseason games, the Longhorns went 5-0, whipped their four opponents by 49-12 and barely even whiffed a hint of danger, save for the ninth-inning meltdown and then redemption in the bottom of the inning on Saturday night. Texas’ intrasquad scrimmages have been more contested.
The Longhorns pretty much made a mockery of the competition. USF, a plucky team with four freshmen and two sophomore starters, battled but couldn’t come up with quality pitching. Its starter lasted just five outs, followed by a parade of six others.
“I think we did a really nice job of attacking the zone and playing tremendous defense. Had some great plays from Trey (Faltine) and Tristan Stevens,” said coach David Pierce, who will be making his second trip to the CWS in four full seasons. “We make the other team earn it. We do a good job of grinding out at-bats. We never give in, and eventually we just wear people down.”
They did that.
Other than that brief deficit in the second inning, if you wanted drama, you had to wait and see how crazy Stevens, Sunday's starter, would get after pitching 5 2/3 workmanlike innings for his 11th win of the season, the most by a Longhorns pitcher since Taylor Jungmann had 13 in 2011.
Fairly tame stuff, by the redshirt junior right-hander’s standards. The always exuberant Stevens grabbed a cardboard poster that said "Ticket Punched" and flashed it to UFCU Disch-Falk Field's celebratory crowd of 7,267 fans, who had a lovefest with this beautifully balanced team.
This was a far cry from the embarrassing 0-3 start to the season in Arlington, curiously enough with losses to Arkansas, Mississippi and Mississippi State. All three of those teams were super regional finalists this past weekend, but only MSU was still alive after Sunday and will face Notre Dame in a Monday rubber match to decide who plays Texas in this weekend's first game.
With top-ranked Arkansas’ upset loss to North Carolina State, Texas (47-15) arrives as the highest seeded team and arguably the team to beat. It is clearly that talented a team.
“Like we said, that wasn’t the team we knew we could be,” said Stevens, who failed to last at least six innings incredibly for the first time in his 13 starts this season. “We put our heads down and went to work. We knew what we were capable of.”
They certainly showed it the last two weeks, blasting the likes of Southern, Arizona State, Fairfield and USF twice. The Longhorns won four of the five games by scoring in double figures.
Sometime, somehow, somewhere you got to figure Texas is going to be tested and face some true adversity.
Maybe by bad housekeeping in the team hotel. Or slow room service. Maybe some good old-fashioned heckling from Cornhuskers fans. Perhaps those ever-present weather delays that frequent the Midwest in June.
But for now, the Longhorns remain on easy street even though they will finally have to pull up stakes and relocate.
That’s just fine with Pierce’s team that's full of swagger because Omaha is not all that unfamiliar a destination. At least not for the Longhorns, who have always made the pilgrimage to Nebraska for its home away from home and secured their ticket to a national record-extending 37th time.
And no, this trip was never in doubt.
Not from the time Texas dusted itself off after a ragged showing in the Big 12 Tournament, came back to the Disch and proceeded to just maul the competition, this time behind Stevens’ solid pitching, superb glove work from Stevens on a spectacular out at home on a safety squeeze and Faltine’s usual handiwork at shortstop as well as productive offense for an emphatic victory.
Faltine drove in three runs with a pair of doubles when he wasn’t getting plunked by pitches (twice), leadoff hitter Mike Antico put a charge into his team with two hits, two runs and two more stolen bases, and Cam Williams crushed a two-run homer to the deepest part of the park.
Oh, South Florida made it a little dicey in Game 1 on Saturday with a pair of home runs in the top of the ninth to tie matters at 3-3, but that lasted only as long as it took Texas to come to bat and see Eric Kennedy drill a double over the center fielder’s head for a 4-3 run-off win.
On Sunday night, the Longhorns did the Fairfield number on the Bulls, using 12 walks, two hit batters and 10 hits to rout the American Athletic Conference team going away.
The Longhorns won’t be accompanied by every top seed. Of the top eight, three didn’t qualify for the CWS, and Texas has more than proven its merit to deserve the role of favorite along with defending champion Vanderbilt and its star-studded pitching tandem.
Texas should be right there in the thick of things with dynamic pitching, flawless defense and a capable if not killer offense. Zach Zubia, the star of the regional, has cooled with one hit in nine at-bats. So has Ivan Melendez with a 1-for-8 showing.
“We can win in multiple ways,” Stevens said. “Yesterday, we won with pitching and defense. Today our offense stepped up to the plate, and look where we are now.”
On this team, a rally can start out of thin air from anywhere in the batting order. Faltine’s on fire as the No. 7 hitter in the lineup with eight postseason hits, and Kennedy has had a late-season resurgence in the 9-hole with four ribbies in the two games against USF.
“We’re going to go to Omaha and keep having the same mentality,” Zubia said. “Win every pitch and win every inning. This team is built for it, and we’re going to compete our ass off.”
And maybe even face a little adversity here or there.