As Chase Shugart threw a 95 MPH past Matt Lloyd to send Texas to the super regionals for the first time since 2014, there was an electricity throughout UFCU Disch-Falk Field that hasn’t been present in a long time. David Pierce, in his second season at Texas, said after the game he had no doubt legendary coach Augie Garrido was looking down upon him and his team as the Longhorns secured the regional championship.
The Longhorns 3-2 win over Indiana had many storylines, but the most important headline should be that the most historic college baseball program in the country is back where they need to be. Pierce has not only guided the Longhorns to a super regional berth, but has re-energized a fan base in two short years and put Texas baseball back on the map.
Here are some thoughts and takeaways from the Longhorns regional championship victory:
- Pierce has shown the ability all season to push the right buttons and get the most of his players. He did it again tonight by bringing in Chase Shugart out of the bullpen to record the final 2 outs with the bases loaded and the Longhorns clinging to a one run lead. Shugart, who threw 69 pitches two days ago in a start against Texas Southern, responded by striking out both batters he faced.
- During the final at-bat of the game, Lloyd lifted a foul ball down the left-field that Masen Hibbeler appeared to reach into the stands and catch, but as he was pulling his glove back into the field of play, Hibbeler dropped the ball. Texas was already on the field celebrating what they thought to be a victory. Shugart said after the game he locked back in mentally and knew he needed to finish the job. He did.
- “I saw it go into his glove and I saw him halfway in the stands and then he came up and threw it in celebratory fashion. I saw the umpire go, ‘safe’ so I knew he wasn’t going to overturn the call. So, I immediately looked at the ground and got locked back in and I tried to get everybody off the mound because that was my territory at that moment. I was trying to calm everybody else down and try to stay in my zone.”-Chase Shugart
- Kody Clemens drove in the game winning run with a RBI double in the 7th, scoring David Hamilton all the way from first base. As has been the case all season, Clemens delivered in the clutch and gave the Longhorns the big hit they needed. Clemens was deservedly named regional MVP and as long as he is hot, Texas has a chance in pretty much any game they are in.
- If there was a co-MVP of the regional, it probably would have been the outfield wall in LF. In the bottom of the 8th, Indiana had a runner on first when Matt Gorski smoked a double to LF that barely hopped over the fence and into the visitors bullpen. If the ball would have stayed in play, Luke Miller would have scored easily from first base. The ground-rule double put runners on 2nd and 3rd, and Ryan Reynolds then made an incredible barehanded play on a slow grounder off the bat of Logan Sowers to end the inning and keep the Longhorns ahead by 1.
- Blair Henley looked like a completely different pitcher than the one who couldn’t make it out of the 4th inning in his final regular season start against TCU. Henley commanded the strike zone with all his pitches all night and gave Texas 7 ⅓ quality innings, allowing 2 unearned runs while striking out 8 and walking zero.
- The 3 Texas starters combined to walk 1 batter during their 3 starts, a stat that caused Chase Shugart and Blair Henley to high five when I asked Pierce about it during the postgame press conference. Henley, Shugart and Nolan Kingham all have very good stuff, but have struggled at times to command it. This weekend should give Texas fans a good idea of what it looks like when all 3 pitchers are on at the same time. People talk a lot about peaking at the right time during the postseason, and it appears the starting staff for Texas is doing just that.
- The home field advantage at Disch-Falk Field was a huge advantage for Texas. Pierce made sure to mention after the game how much of a different the fans made. It may be the final game at the Disch this season, but Texas fans made their presence felt throughout the entire weekend.
- Texas will now await the winner of the Oxford regional. Ole Miss is currently 2-0 and will play 2-1 Tennessee Tech tomorrow afternoon in the regional championship. The Rebels are a very, very good team that presents difficult challenges on the mound and at the plate.