The excitement was uncontainable for the Longhorns after senior first baseman Jake McKenzie secured the final out of Texas’ 5-2 game three victory over Tennessee Tech on Monday.
Every player on the bench, on the field and in the bullpen rushed center stage immediately. Some gloves went flying, while players and coaches alike embraced each other as Texas celebrated a super regional win to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2014.
On Monday afternoon, Texas would earn all the superlatives it had been synonymous with throughout the season as they took the final game in the Austin Super Regional from Tennessee Tech. In front of an exhilarated, sunscorched crowd of 7,730, Texas did what it always planned to: advance to Omaha.
“It feels awesome,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “It really does. It’s never been about me, and it never will be. But the thing that I love is the thing I told these guys back in the fall (was) that I want this for you guys, but I also want it for those three coaches who have been with me for seven years.”
As chants of “Augie” rang down from the Longhorn faithful, a reflective mood passed through the crowd at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, one of elation and euphoria, but also one of reverence and admiration of the former Texas head coach Augie Garrido, who passed away on March 15.
“It’s kind of a crazy thing that we’re celebrating his life just a couple months ago,” redshirt junior Parker Joe Robinson said. “And then to have us perform it seems like right after he passed away. Our team kind of flipped a switch. I don’t know, maybe Augie was with us.”
In Pierce’s second season as head coach of Texas, he led his team from the moment they started the season with a 9-9 record to winning a super regional. Now, Texas’ final destination this season will be the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park, the biggest stage for college baseball.
The trip to get there has had its fair share of twists and turns. After a game one loss, Texas’ hope of reaching college baseball’s biggest stage seemed to be slipping through their fingers.
In the second game of the series, two of Texas’ most salient arms would show up in full force. Junior starter Chase Shugart and sophomore Blair Henley willed their way to a victory in game two with a pair of their best outings on the season.
Game three was slightly more unconventional. Texas’ starter wasn’t an ace. He wasn’t a stud recruit. In fact, his hometown is over 5,500 miles away from Austin, in Parma, Italy.
Monday starting pitcher junior Matteo Bocchi, who had never even heard of the College World Series until a couple of years ago, took the mound in Texas’ most important game of the season.
Between Bocchi and some timely hits from Kody Clemens and the Longhorns, Texas was able to seal the victory and reserve their spot at the College World Series, where eight teams will fight for one national championship.
For now, Texas took Monday afternoon to celebrate. The Longhorns grabbed hats labeled “OMAHA” in bold letters, and huddled around Kody Clemens, who said, “Hey guess what? The show goes on, but we are not finished.”
The team proceeded to sprint to the Longhorn logo in center field to take a photo behind Garrido’s initials and number ‘AG 16’ which are labeled in the center of the logo.
“It’s awesome,” Clemens said. “It’s crazy that he is gone but everything that we’ve been doing and working for, it’s all for him. We’re taking him to Omaha, Nebraska, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”