Bullpen salvages another series, as young arms control tempo of potent Arizona State offense

Trey Scott and Jon Parrett

After the Longhorns put together a solid sixth-inning offense to score two runs and take a 4-2 lead on Arizona State, head coach Augie Garrido turned to the part of his team he’s relied on all season to get him to Omaha — his pitching.
The Texas bullpen threw five scoreless innings and allowed only two batters en route to shutting down the Sun Devils and securing a trip to the College World Series.

“The pitching staff was remarkable,” Garrido said. “It needs to be the cornerstone of the team, it is the cornerstone of the team.”

Nathan Thornhill started the fifth inning in relief of starter Sam Stafford, whose only runs were surrendered on a two-run home run in the first inning. He went to work quickly, eliciting groundouts from the three Sun Devils he faced. The freshman from nearby Cedar Park allowed one hit in the sixth and was relieved by lefty Hoby Milner with ASU’s left-handed slugger Joey DiMichele at the plate.

“All the hard work pays off,” Thornhill said. “It’s good that the bullpen was able to step up. We did our job. The coaches do a great job with working us around the match-ups. It’s a collective effort.”

Milner got DiMichele to strike out swinging to end the inning, and then retired the side in both the seventh and eighth innings.

Closer Corey Knebel came in to pitch the ninth inning for Texas, and said he couldn’t stop shaking on the mound because of the adrenaline. The freshman retired the first two batters of the inning, but gave up a fastball that Joey DeMichele slapped into deep right center field. Outfielders Cohl Walla and Mark Payton both called for the ball, but couldn’t hear each other over the roaring crowd and collided into each other, allowing the ball to fall from Payton’s glove and DeMichele to take third base.

“I knew it was not going to affect me at all, and that I had to turn around and get the next batter,” Knebel said. “I don’t ever think that guy can score a run, I think that the next batter is mine.”

The freshman got the next batter to pop up to center field for the save. It was Knebel’s 19th of the season, which ties the UT record for saves in a single season.