How do you close the book on a season that looked like it might never end?
After all, the Longhorns slammed the door on elimination so many times you thought it was a made-for-the-movies team of destiny.
Turns out, Augie Garrido’s bunch just overachieved.
“You didn’t see us overwhelm anybody with physical talent,” Garrido said. “It was about attitude and spirit. You saw a lot of physical talent on the two teams we lost to.”
A trip to Omaha came and went as quickly as the recent summer storm. One moment, it seemed, Texas was about to take down mighty Florida. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was down to its final inning of the season to North Carolina.
Brandon Loy popped up to right for the final out of the 3-0 loss to the Tar Heels, and, just like that, the 2011 chapter was finished.
“People probably didn’t think we’d get out of our Regional, and then we lost the first game against Arizona State,” Loy said. “What we’ve done and what we’ve fought through, that’s what I’m thinking about right now.”
This team began the season with grounded expectations — if the slugging Longhorns of 2010 couldn’t make it to Omaha, how could these .272 hitters?
Somehow, they did. Did it with just 17 home runs. Did it with their backs against the wall more than a few times — winning five straight do-or-die games just to get to Omaha. Even did it without a vintage Taylor Jungmann, whose story the past three weeks is equal parts weird and unfair. After cruising to a 13-0 record, he lost his last three attempts. Ultimately, Jungmann admitted he just didn’t have it.
“Mechanically, some things have been going wrong recently,” he said after the 8-4 loss to Florida.
There was no worse a time for Jungmann to break down, but his 0-3 record since regional play shouldn’t do anything to diminish his legacy as one of the best to pitch here — his 32 wins is eighth of all time, and that’s in three years.
“Taylor learned something about himself that he had never learned before,” Garrido said.
“Hopefully he can convert that into a good experience for himself and a life lesson.”
In the span of a month, Augie wrote a book about life and also drew criticism for a profanity-laced excerpt from his documentary that surfaced on YouTube. He helped guide his team as freshman Alex Silver courageously battled with cancer. When Silver defeated the disease, Garrido started him at third base.
“The only way somebody can feel well is if you treat them like they’re well,” he said.
He also turned in the best coaching job this school has seen in a long time, molding a group that struggled to hit into one of the best eight teams in the nation. Honestly, when’s the last time a Texas athletic program overachieved?
All year, the Longhorns relied on pitching and defense. When the first part of that equation forgot to show up in Omaha, any national championship hopes became a bigger long shot.
“It wasn’t meant to be this time,” Garrido said. “We never got the momentum.”
Texas (49-19) will most likely say goodbye to juniors Jungmann, Sam Stafford and Brandon Loy, all high-round draft picks. Second baseman Jordan Etier also could sign as a free agent.
It will definitely say goodbye to seniors Cole Green and Tant Shepherd, who turned down professional money after their junior seasons for the opportunity to come back and help this team improve.
“I told them in the locker room that they had a lot to be proud of,” Garrido said. “What they did by getting the team here was give us a much brighter future.”
Yes, with returnees such as Hoby Milner, Erich Weiss, Corey Knebel and Mark Payton, the future is indeed bright. But looking so far ahead right now only discounts what the Longhorns did this year — stringing together an improbable season filled with little run support, a bunch of life lessons and a few more wins than anybody probably expected.