Posted June 11th, 2018
Later this summer, Texas’ Jake McKenzie will move to San Antonio.
The senior first baseman will travel down Interstate 35 for a two-year training program in petroleum engineering’s four disciplines. McKenzie is set to start on July 30, a date that affords him a few weeks to rest after the end of his final season at UT.
That summer break, though, got smaller on Monday afternoon.
Texas built an early lead and used a patchwork pitching plan to hold off Tennessee Tech in a 5-2 win at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. With the victory, the Longhorns (42-21) are headed to the College World Series for the 36th time in school history. No school has ever reached the NCAA’s season-ending showcase in Omaha more than Texas, which is making its first trip there since 2014.
“I don’t think anybody really expected this from this team. We knew all along we weren’t the most-talented team,” McKenzie said before noting that teams with the most talent don’t always win titles or end up in Omaha. “We took that as our motto this year. We just worked hard and did the right things.”
Texas and Tennessee Tech split the first two games of their NCAA super regional with UT taking Sunday’s game. In Monday’s championship game, Ryan Reynolds got the Longhorns on the scoreboard with a two-run double in the second inning. Kody Clemens and DJ Petrinsky then hit solo homers in the third to make it 4-0.
Texas used sophomore Blair Henley — its No. 3 starter throughout the season — in relief on Sunday, so Matteo Bocchi was handed the start in Monday’s winner-take-all showdown. A junior from Italy by way of Odessa College, Bocchi was picked by UT coach David Pierce due to his showing in recent practices and last week’s relief effort against Texas Southern.
Making only his fourth start of the season, Bocchi was asked to deliver three innings. “Everything after that,” Pierce said, “was a bonus.” Bocchi ended up throwing five, allowing four hits and one run along the way.
“My approach was go on the mound, throw strikes and let my defense work,” Bocchi said. “That’s what I did.”
Pierce had said that all 14 of his pitchers would be available. After Bocchi’s exit, Pierce used five of those arms in relief. The most-effective was Parker Joe Robinson, who got Texas out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning with only one run worth of damage. Tech managed only a walk and a hit over Robinson’s 2 2/3 innings.
“We expect that from P-Joe now, which is kind of rude for us to do,” McKenzie said of UT’s ERA leader. “He’s been lights out all year.”
After Robinson issued a leadoff single in the ninth, Texas turned to Andy McGuire. UT’s closer recorded a strikeout but also walked a batter. Saying that he wasn’t “going to leave a bullet in the bullpen and get beat,” Pierce called on Nolan Kingham, who was only two days removed from a 95-pitch start on Saturday.
Kingham faced three Golden Eagles. Following a deep fly-out and a bases-loading walk, he got Brennon Kaleiwahea to ground out to shortstop David Hamilton to end the game.
“I wasn’t that nervous or worried or anything,” Clemens said. “It was actually just a moment that I was actually kind of soaking in. Just looking at all the fans, it was definitely a cool moment. That last out was an unbelievable feeling.”
Clemens and Petrinsky’s homers were the third and fourth hit by a Longhorn in the three games. (Clemens was responsible for three of those swings). Tennessee Tech, meanwhile, only hit one. Tech arrived in Austin with an NCAA-leading 134 homers, six of which were hit in the regional at Ole Miss.
Tech also was leading the nation in batting average. Texas limited Tech to five hits on Monday, which was tied for the team’s second-lowest output of the season. On Sunday, Texas threw a three-hitter against the Golden Eagles.
“They were doing something pretty special out there, good for them,” Tech coach Matt Bragga said.
Around the bases: Texas will meet either Arkansas or South Carolina in its CWS opener this weekend. … Tennessee Tech closed out its season with a 53-12 record. … Monday’s crowd of 7,370 was a season-high at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. … Kingham, who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves last Wednesday, earned his third save of the season.