Posted June 19th, 2018
OMAHA, Neb. — With its season on the brink, Texas went out swinging on Tuesday.
The Longhorns, unable to survive 15 strikeouts and a sixth-inning slip-up, saw their season end with a 6-1 loss to top-seeded Florida at TD Ameritrade Park in an elimination game at the College World Series. Texas, making a record 36th trip to the CWS, ended its season with a 42-23 record.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull any wins out here,” junior Kody Clemens said. “But I think that (people will) remember just, like, the fight we had in us all year.”
Florida (48-20) grabbed an early lead as Jonathan India singled in a run in the first inning. The Gators were able to chase an erratic Blair Henley in the third inning, but junior Chase Shugart had more luck against an offense averaging 6.6 runs per game.
Shugart struck out his first four opponents and didn’t allow a runner until he plunked Wil Dalton, the seventh Gator to face Boston’s 12th-round draft pick. Through its first nine at-bats against Shugart, Florida was 1 for 8 with five strikeouts.
The Gators, though, figured Shugart out by the second time he went through the batting order.
The first Gator to bat against him in the third inning, Blake Reese doubled to open the sixth. He later came home on a Nelson Maldonado single. The Gators then put the game away with India’s three-run blast.
In the sixth inning, Florida went 3 for 6 against Shugart. Deacon Liput also drew a two-out walk that set the stage for Maldonado and India’s hits.
“(Maldonado) came through clutch for us,” India said. “And as they say, hitting is contagious. Just pass it on to me and I’ll pass it on to the next.”
The sixth inning was once again a nightmare for Texas. Two days earlier, UT gave up eight runs in the sixth in Sunday’s 11-5 loss to Arkansas. UT entered the game having given up a season-high 47 runs in sixth innings.
“I felt like I was in my zone and that was the only inning I was ever out of it,” Shugart said.
Texas trailed 6-0 by the time DJ Petrinsky drove in Austin Todd in the eighth. UT left 11 runners on base in its lowest-scoring outing since May 24.
Florida right-hander Jackson Kowar improved to 10-5 with the win. Taken 33rd in the MLB draft by Kansas City, Kowar registered 13 strikeouts. Texas struck out twice against two Florida relievers to set a season-high.
“He was very locked in,” UT coach David Pierce said. “The thing about Kowar is that when you have stuff like that, it’s one thing, but when you can mix stuff with command, that’s when you’re a first-rounder. That’s what he is.”
Pierce said that “these guys have — our coaches, our support staff and our players, especially — have nothing to be ashamed of.” Texas was found in most preseason Top 25 rankings, but no notable projections had Texas ending the season in Omaha. UT, though, won the Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time since 2011. The 42 wins were the most in four years. Texas also secured regional and super regional titles at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
“Coming in this year, people expected it to be a building year due to everybody we lost last year,” Shugart said. “But these guys proved everybody wrong and that’s because of their attitude. The attitude we had was gritty. We weren’t giving anything; we had to take it. We took the Big 12 championship, like we needed, and the regional and super regionals.”
Around the bases: Texas got out of a first-inning jam with its 72nd double play of the season, which broke a first-place tie with Cincinnati among NCAA teams. … In probably his last game at Texas, Clemens went 1 for 4 with a walk to close out a stellar season. … With two homers, Florida overtook Clemson for second place on the NCAA’s homers chart. The Gators, who will play either Texas Tech or Arkansas on Thursday, now have 99 homers. … Senior first baseman Jake McKenzie collected the fifth multi-hit effort of the final nine games of his baseball career.