Texas will live to fight another day.
In a win-or-go-home situation for game two of the Austin Super Regional against Tennessee Tech on Sunday, Texas desperately needed to win in order to keep its dreams of a trip to the College World Series alive. The team was able do just that, as they won a 4-2 scorcher over the Golden Eagles in the 95-degree Central Texas heat.
“Our backs are against the wall,” junior second baseman Kody Clemens said. “You definitely try to do everything you can, especially during a Super Regional.”
If any of the 7,151 fans at Disch-Falk Field were previously unfamiliar with starting pitcher junior Chase Shugart coming into Sunday’s game, they're definitely familiar with him now.
Facing what is arguably the nation’s most dangerous offense, Shugart shut down the Tennessee Tech lineup in a fashion more impressive than maybe any other pitcher all year. In six innings, Shugart was as close to perfect as one can get. He allowed only one run, none earned, on two hits and struck out five.
“The guy was dynamite,” Tennessee Tech head coach Matt Bragga said. “I really tip my hat to him. That’s one of the best performances we’ve seen all year.”
Shugart had the most impressive outing of the afternoon, but between both teams, regular Sunday starter sophomore Blair Henley was a close second. When called upon to start the seventh inning, Henley had a minor hiccup. On his very first pitch, he allowed a solo home run to Tennessee Tech’s David Garza for the Golden Eagles’ only earned run of the game.
After that pitch, though, Henley locked in and was just as lights out as his predecessor. Between Shugart and Henley, Texas’ arms allowed only one earned run on three hits.
To put the day into perspective, Tennessee Tech leads the nation in runs scored per game and hits per game, at 10.5 and 12.7, respectively. The team’s two runs tied for its lowest on the season, and its three hits marked a season low.
The only dilemma in bringing in Henley is that Texas will likely not have its usual third game starter. And while it may seem like a problem, Pierce said that his goal for the day was simple: Get to a game three.
“There’s no tomorrow if we don’t win today,” Pierce said. “So it makes no sense to me to have our next best guy sitting in the bullpen and we never get to him for the simple fact that we’re waiting, planning for tomorrow. We had an opportunity to win and we went for it.”
Pierce said he has no pitcher marked to start tomorrow’s game and will address the situation and matchups before making a decision.
Texas’ offense wasn’t quite as potent as it was earlier in the year, but right when the Longhorns needed an offensive spark, they got it from none other than junior second baseman Kody Clemens.
Clemens put together another remarkable performance on Sunday, where he went 2-4 with an RBI double and a solo home run.
Clemens now has 10 home runs in his last 15 games. Clemens credits simplicity for the power surge and said that his goal is not to hit home runs, but let them come to him.
In a more dramatic situation, when rounding third on the solo home run, Clemens flashed the “horns up” to the Tennessee Tech dugout and stared down the team’s bench players before stepping on home plate.
“It’s just an emotional game,” Clemens said. “It was a heat-of-the-moment thing.”
The rubber match of the Austin Super Regional between Texas and Tennessee Tech will be played Monday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m.