Entering game 1 of the Austin Super Regional, it was well known Tennessee Tech would be bringing the number 1 offense in the country to Disch-Falk Field. The Texas pitching staff would have to rise up to the challenge of keeping the ball in the ballpark. On Saturday afternoon, the Texas pitchers were able to do just that, but the Golden Eagles offense was still able to pound out 11 hits and use 4 brilliant innings of relief from Ethan Roberts to take game 1 from the Longhorn, 5-4.
Texas now find their backs against the wall and must win 2 straight elimination games to advance to the College World Series. Let’s take a look at some thoughts and takeaways from an eventful game 1 and what to expect tomorrow.
- Texas starter Nolan Kingham only lasted 4 ⅔ innings, allowing 5 runs on 9 hits while striking out 5 and walking 2. When Kingham exited the game he was at 95 pitches and seemed to be having trouble putting hitters away. The right-hander repeatedly got himself in favorable counts, but was unable to finish hitters off. Kingham’s fastball velocity ranged from 89-94 and he had good command through the first couple of innings, but the Golden Eagles lineup was able to do some damage the second and third time through the order.
- David Pierce said after the game that Kingham was not at 100% health. After battling the flu last weekend, Kingham had to get a cyst drained and removed earlier this week. This seems to explain why Kingham appeared to run out of gas towards the end of his outing.
- “No, he just had a cyst removed. Something that had to be drained on Monday. I was just concerned about his legs staying under him and in that sixth inning the ball started getting up so I made the change there.”- Pierce on Kingham
- The Texas bullpen did an excellent job following Kingham’s exit from the game. Kamron Fields, Josh Sawyer and Parker Joe Robinson combined to throw 4 ⅓ innings of scoreless relief, surrendering only 2 hits and striking out 7. Robinson in particular was huge, coming into bases loaded, nobody out situation in the 8th and escaping the inning without allowing a run.
- “Josh, we extended him a little bit because of the score and the situation and I thought his stuff was good, just got in trouble there in whatever inning it was. Then he got behind and Parker Joe (Robinson) picked him up and that’s what these guys have been doing in that back end is picking each other up. And the performance Parker Joe did is, we talk about it on the mound when he’s coming in, it’s like Houdini coming in and he’s been doing it all year. Just a tremendous job to keep us in the game and keep it a one run deficit.”-Pierce on Sawyer and Robinson
- Aside from the usual Kody Clemens home run, the Texas offense had a quiet afternoon. The other 3 runs driven in were all via the sacrifice fly, and the Longhorns just couldn’t quite get the big hit when they needed it. Texas finished the game 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. Zach Zubia, Masen Hibbeler, Ryan Reynolds and DJ Petrinsky combined to go 0 for 13 with 6 strikeouts.
- Part of offensive struggles can be attributed to Tennessee Tech closer Ethan Roberts, who I pegged as the pitcher to watch coming into the series. Roberts entered in the 6th inning with 2 runners on and nobody out with Tennessee Tech nursing a 5-3 lead. The 4th round pick of the Chicago Cubs proceeded to strike out the next 3 batters. His cutter was as advertised and Texas was unable to do much damage off him aside from a double by Jake McKenzie.
- Since Roberts threw 56 pitches today, head coach Matt Bragga said it is not likely he will be available tomorrow. This likely means the Golden Eagles will ride starter Travis Moths as long as they can. Moths is considered the ace of the staff and received an extra day of rest after starting last Saturday and throwing in relief during both games on Monday against Ole Miss.
- Looking ahead to tomorrow, Texas will obviously need a strong outing from Chase Shugart. Since it is an elimination game for the Longhorns, it will be all hands on deck from a pitching standout. If Shugart were to run into trouble early, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Blair Henley come out of the bullpen. No one asked David Pierce about Parker Joe Robinson’s availability tomorrow after throwing 31 pitches, but I would imagine he could give Texas an inning. Andy McGuire could be used for multiple innings and the Longhorns still have another multiple inning guy in Bryce Elder, who has yet to throw in the NCAA Tournament.