If Texas hopes to make some noise in their first trip to the College World Series since 2014, they will have to do so by going through the loser’s bracket. Sunday’s 11-5 loss to Arkansas in the CWS opener puts the Longhorns in a very tough position, needing 4 straight wins to advance to the Championship Series.
The loss to the Razorbacks drops Texas’ record to 0-3 this season against the old SWC rival. One of the top offenses in the country pounded out 15 hits and pulled away in the 6th inning behind an 8-run outburst against 6 different Texas pitchers.
Here are some thoughts and takeaways from a long day in Omaha:
- Texas starter Nolan Kingham battled through 5 innings, allowing 5 runs on 9 hits while striking out 4 and walking 1. Although the final line wasn’t very good, Kingham looked pretty good for the first 4 innings of his outing. He attacked pretty well with his sinker and flashed a plus slider at times.
- “Yeah, the pitch count was down, just a couple of balls running away from me and leaving the ball up, and made a few mistakes and they capitalized. And that was it”- Nolan Kingham’s thoughts on his outing
- The 5th and 6th innings were ultimately his undoing. With one out in the 5th and a runner on first, Kingham appeared to induce what could have been an inning ending double play. A hard groundball to Jake McKenzie was briefly bobbled, but McKenzie recovered and fired to David Hamilton at second base for the force out. Hamilton, who had a little more time than he thought for the return throw, threw wildly of first trying to complete the double play. The throw extended the inning, and Luke Bonfield made Texas pay by blasting a 2-run home run into the LF seats to give Arkansas a 3-2 lead.
- In the 6th and with the Longhorns still trailing 3-2, Kingham allowed back-to-back singles to open the frame. Despite his starter having only 82 pitches, David Pierce opted to go to the bullpen to call on Parker Joe Robinson, who has been outstanding the entire postseason. That is when things fell apart…
- Robinson walked both batters he faced to force in a run, which David Pierce even admitted after the game is something he never expected from his right-hander. Robinson entered the contest with 9 walks in 30 ⅔ innings.
- “Hindsight is a beautiful thing. You look back at that and you would really say should have stuck with Nolan. But Parker Joe hadn’t walked two guys in the entire year back to back and that’s what happened. And it just unraveled.”-Pierce
- Josh Sawyer then entered the game and promptly walked Eric Cole, forcing home another run.
- After Cole’s walk, the contest entered a 2 hour and 49 minute rain delay. Once it reached a certain point, it was obvious Sawyer would not be returning to the mound. With the game still within reach at 5-2, David Pierce had a decision to make on who he was going to bring with the bases loaded and nobody out when play resumed
- Pierce chose Chase Shugart, and it did not work out like he would have liked. Shugart allowed back-to-back singles and hit a batter, allowing 3 more runs to score. To Pierce’s credit, he pulled Shuart after 11 pitches, meaning the right-hander should still be in line to start Tuesday’s elimination game. Personally, I didn’t mind the decision. If Shugart were to escape the jam, Texas would have only trailed 5-2 with 3 innings remaining.
- “No, that’s why he only went 11. The thinking was we’re in a pickle. We need to get our best guy in the game right now. And if we can get it within one run, as far as giving up one run, so it’s a four-run deficit, and then we can tack on runs, maybe two, then we were going to stick with Chase. Otherwise, we were going to get him out, keep him available and move to the next guy, and that’s what we did”- Pierce on the decision to go to Shugart
- Shugart gave way to Kamron Fields, who recorded two outs but allowed 2 more hits and a walk. Ultimately, Andy McGuire came in finish out the inning, but at that point, the damage was done. Arkansas had 8 men cross the plate and the game was out of reach.
- Texas had limited success against Arkansas starter Blaine Knight, who admitted after the game he didn’t have his best stuff, but it worked. Knight threw all of his pitches for strikes and kept Texas off-balance.
- Tate Shaw was the best player on the field for Texas. The centerfielder collected 3 hits, including a triple to the RCF gap in the 3rd that eventually allowed Texas to tie the game at 1.
- Kody Clemens was held in check. Texas’ best hitter finished the afternoon 1 for 5 with 2 strikeouts. David Hamilton, Duke Ellis and Clemens combined to go 1 for 11 at the top of the order.
- DJ Petrinsky barely missed a 2-run home run in the top of the 2nd, flying out to the wall in LF. If anything can be taken away from the first three games at the CWS, it is that the ball has to be absolutely crushed for it to go out.
Texas will now need a win on Tuesday to stave off elimination. Chase Shugart should take the ball for the Longhorns, and all the eyes will be on the Texas pitching staff. The Longhorns had their fair share of struggles offensively against Arkansas, but Texas isn’t going to win many games when allowing 5 walks and 15 hits. The pitching will have to be superb for the Longhorns to have a chance to make it through the loser’s bracket.
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