With the first pitch of the highly anticipated Texas versus Texas A&M matchup hours away, Texas’ starting pitcher was throwing up.
McKenzie throws Kingham under the bus
After a week-long battle with the flu, junior ace Nolan Kingham somehow got healthy enough to get on the mound, but he may have downplayed the severity of his sickness.
“All week I struggled eating, drinking liquids and even sleeping,” Kingham said. “Today I woke up a little earlier, got some food in me, liquids in me.”
“He threw up this morning,” senior first baseman Jake McKenzie interrupted.
Kingham admitted he laid in bed all week, and that his body started to fight with him when he was on the mound, but he hadn’t planned on revealing the detail McKenzie decided to share with the media in the post-game press conference.
“I feel a whole lot better winning,” Kingham said. “I’d say out of the whole week today was probably the best I’ve felt, yesterday was iffy.”
But his performance Saturday night was anything but iffy. As Kingham left the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning, he looked up at the crowd and starting yelling as the majority of the sold-out crowd at the Disch, gave his performance –– three runs on nine hits in 7.2 innings (with the flu) –– a standing ovation.
Kingham admitted he was upset about not going the distance, but the duo of Josh Sawyer and Andy McGuire slammed the door shut on any hopes of an Aggie comeback, cementing a 8-3 victory.
Longhorns sit one win away from a Super Regional berth –– again
At this time last year the Longhorns were in the driver’s seat. Similar to this year, Texas jumped out to a 2-0 start in the Long Beach Regional. Then, a pair of back-to-back one-run losses ended the Longhorns’ season in the blink of an eye.
“Looking back we felt like we had the advantage really,” left fielder Travis Jones said after last year’s loss. “We fought back, but at the end of the day we lost. Man, it’s pretty crappy honestly.”
Jones’ bluntness accurately captured the note the 2017 season ended on.
Return back to Saturday night, and moments after Texas secured its 8-3 victory over the Aggies, it begged the question: How do the Longhorns make sure the Long Beach let down doesn’t make a return to Austin?
“We’re going to try and turn the page pretty quick and focus on tomorrow, not get too high on this one,” McKenzie said. “(We want to) be ready to go tomorrow and we want to get it done tomorrow night.”
Despite the similarities from last season to this one, Texas will have one major advantage heading into Sunday: the home crowd. An official attendance of 7,046 –– a sold-out crowd –– made itself heard early and often Saturday night.
The crowd seemingly carried the momentum of Kody Clemens’ three-run home run in the first inning all the way through the bottom of the ninth. Sunday night will be no different.
Texas’ offense delivers first punch, and a stare down
After Kody Clemens’ first of two home runs Saturday night, it wasn’t the famous bat flip that caught Longhorns fans’ attention. It was what happened as Clemens trotted past the Texas A&M dugout.
As soon as Clemens’ foot touched third base, he turned his head to the right and stared down the Aggies in the dugout as he neared home plate for a 3-0 lead.
“It was kind of in the moment,” Clemens said. “I’m super competitive, playing A&M you get pretty emotional. It was just the heat of the moment type of deal.”
Clemens blasted his 21st home run in the sixth inning and junior catcher DJ Petrinsky joined that party with a solo shot in the fourth inning. But the first punch goes back to the stare down in the first inning.
Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress didn’t appear to take it to heart.
“We’re all competitors,” Childress said. “It’s a Saturday night in a Regional. If you don’t like it, make a better pitch. That’s the way I look at it. He’s the one that got the pitch and he didn’t miss it.”
Clemens was much more blunt in the postgame press conference. When asked if there was a team he disliked more than the Aggies, his answer was short and simple, “Um. No.”
Texas now awaits the winner of Indiana and Texas A&M, who are both playing to keep their respective seasons alive once 2 p.m. rolls around Sunday afternoon. As for the Longhorns, they won’t play until 8 p.m.
David Pierce’s squad may have said they plan on moving past their victory over the Aggies rather quickly, but expect the fans the enjoy Saturday night’s dominant victory until the first pitch Sunday night as the Austin Regional nears its close.