For the first time in a college generation, Texas baseball fans can finally breathe a sigh of satisfaction.
On Sunday night, Texas beat Indiana 3-2 on the heels of two stellar pitching performances. With the win, the Longhorns will advance to a Super Regional for the first time in head coach David Pierce’s tenure.
“(The win is) special for everybody in the organization,” Pierce said. “I’m really proud of the way this team has come together and really proud of the way they continue to fight for each other and continue to pick each other up.”
One particular personality flashed greatness late in the game. And while his glasses may invoke thoughts of Clark Kent, make no mistake, junior pitcher Chase Shugart was Superman on Sunday night.
Only up one run, with the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth inning, Shugart was called on to put the finishing touch on Texas’ most important game of the year. After redshirt junior closer Andy McGuire loaded the bases and only recorded one out to start off the ninth, Pierce called on Shugart, who had thrown six innings just two days prior.
Shugart answered the call. He struck out the only two batters he faced and was the key to delivering Texas to its first regional championship since 2014.
“It’s a dream come true,” Shugart said. “It’s every kid’s dream to pitch in a Regional. And now it’s every kid’s dream to pitch in a Super Regional. So we got past week one, and we’re looking forward to going into week two. And it’s the same emotions as always.”
Shugart saved the day, but sophomore starter Blair Henley was the Longhorns’ most valuable player on Sunday night. Over 7.1 innings, Henley allowed two runs, both unearned, on a mere six hits. Henley may have had not only the best outing from a starter over the course of the weekend, but Pierce said it may have been the best of his career.
“I think (it was Henley’s best game as a Longhorn),” Pierce said. “In the moment, I thought Blair was as good as he could be. He had a few lapses, but overall he went out and took the game and competed really, really well.”
Each starting pitcher tried to outduel the last over the weekend, something they said was a goal of theirs over the course of the season.
“It was really cool because Chase and Nolan were the first guys out to congratulate me on my outing,” Henley said. “And I was right there when they were walking off the field in theirs. It’s pretty cool, kind of competing against them. They’re really good pitchers and every time I have to go out there and do better. And it’s pretty hard sometimes.”
Though Texas couldn’t match the offensive firepower it produced on Friday and Saturday, the team scratched just what it needed to come away with the victory. Led by tournament MVP junior second baseman Kody Clemens, the Longhorns put up exactly what they needed when they needed it most.
Clemens, who wore his emotions on his sleeve after the win, seemed to cherish the victory he fought so hard to capture.
“This is what we worked for starting in September,” Clemens said. “We worked all through the fall for this type of environment and this type of game and situation and everything we’ve been going through so far. And it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Texas will play the winner of the Oxford Regional. Whether the Super Regional will take place in Austin or Oxford next weekend will be determined on Monday. For now though, the team will likely savor every moment of Sunday night’s victory.