Brandon Loy

(Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

Omaha — the Mecca of college baseball, the site of the College World Series and the expected destination for Longhorn baseball teams every year.

Behind pitchers like Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green, hitters like Brandon Loy and Tant Shepherd, and the all-time winningest coach in college baseball history, Texas reached the College World Series for the 34th time last season, a Division I record. Longhorns skipper Augie Garrido is back for his 16th year on the 40 Acres but Jungmann, Green, Loy and Shepherd are all pursuing professional baseball careers.

Without any of its starting pitchers from a year ago and after losing three of its top four hitters, Texas could have a tough time getting back to Omaha.

“I do know that we’ve gone to Omaha with less talent than we have right now,” Garrido said. “But talent doesn’t get you to Omaha, quite honestly. It’s part of it, but it’s not even the most important. Attitude and teamwork are the most important parts.”

Last year marked the seventh time since Garrido took over as the Texas head coach in 1997 that he took the Longhorns to the College World Series. It was Garrido’s pitching staff, one that boasted the nation’s second-lowest ERA a year ago, that carried Texas to Omaha. The Longhorns bring back Corey Knebel, who tied a school record with 19 saves as a freshman in 2011, but will have three new starting pitchers in their rotation — sophomore Nathan Thornhill, junior Hoby Milner and freshman John Curtiss — after Sam Stafford, who was expected to be Texas’ ace, went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.

“You can’t replace a guy like Taylor. You can’t replace a guy like Cole or Sam,” said Thornhill, who will start the season opener against Duke on Friday. “We definitely have a lot of young guys who know how to throw strikes and aren’t afraid to throw strikes, which is a huge deal. We’ve got a lot of guys who are ready to challenge hitters, whether they’re a freshman or senior.”

While the guys Texas was sending to the mound were mowing down the competition, the players in the Longhorns’ lineup didn’t fare as well. Texas posted a team batting average of .269, the third-lowest in the Big 12 and the 224th-best in the country, last season. The Longhorns lost three members of that lineup, including Shepherd and Loy, who were two of their three batters that hit better than .300 last season. Texas’ lineup this year should feature many underclassmen, especially after junior center fielder Cohl Walla suffered a torn ACL during the offseason.

“I think we have some good chances [to get to the College World Series],” said Erich Weiss, who led the team with a .348 batting average in 2011. “There might be a few [different] lineups after the first week going into the second week. Hopefully after that we can get it settled.”

Whether the Longhorns’ lineup, rotation or bullpen will be good enough to get them back to Omaha remains to be seen. Texas is a relatively inexperienced squad but knows what it takes to get there.

“We have enough talent on the pitching staff, we’re going to be able to play defense at a high enough level, and we’re going to be able to play offense at a higher level than we did last year,” Garrido said. “It’s about the fundamentals of the game. If we can master the fundamentals of the game, accept the roles that each player has in teamwork and maintain the right attitude, anything can happen. That’s the beauty of it.”

After being charged with marijuana possession and evading police this summer it seemed as if Jordan Etier's time at Texas was all but over. He was recently reinstated to the team, sans scholarship.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

When shortstop Brandon Loy was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Draft, the Longhorns lost half of their starting middle infield. After Jordan Etier was arrested and charged with marijuana possession and evading police four months later, it seemed as if they would lose the other half.

But Texas announced Wednesday that Etier would be reinstated to the baseball team and that the senior second baseman would serve a four-game suspension. In addition to sitting out four games, Etier will also not have a scholarship while playing for the Longhorns this season.

“With there being closure in Jordan’s case, the University decided to revisit the situation and his punishment,” said head coach Augie Garrido in a statement. “After he was dismissed from the team in the fall, Jordan continued to attend class which was looked on in a positive light by the administration. He also showed his intention to continue his education and graduate from the University of Texas whether or not he was member of the team, which demonstrated his effort to learn and grow from the incident.”

Garrido was himself suspended four games three season ago when he pleaded guilty to drunken driving in February 2009, a little more than two weeks after he was pulled over at about 1 a.m. and admitted to a police officer that he had consumed five glasses of wine. The NCAA Division I all-time leader in wins with 1,817 victories, Garrido was also sentenced to four days in Travis County Jail and fined $500 in July 2009.

Etier, who hit .237 as a junior last season, will be eligible to return to the Longhorns lineup Feb. 24 when Texas faces Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif. The Cardinals are ranked No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll while the Longhorns checked in at No. 5. Stanford, who was swept in the Super Regional round last season by North Carolina – the team that knocked Texas out of the College World Series last year – lost two out of three to the Longhorns at Austin in 2011.

Texas will bring back three of its starting infielders from a year ago as catcher Jacob Felts and third baseman Erich Weiss will join Etier in his final season with the Longhorns. They will also return two starting outfielders, Mark Payton and Cohl Walla. Texas loses its ace, Taylor Jungmann, a first-round selection by the Milwaukee Brewers in last June’s MLB Draft, and another starting pitcher in Cole Green, who was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth round. But the Longhorns will welcome back southpaw starter Sam Stafford, who turned down the New York Yankees that drafted him in the second round and sensational closer Corey Knebel, who tied a school record with 19 saves as a freshman.

The Longhorns open the 2012 season with a three-game homestand against Duke beginning Feb. 17 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Kevin Lusson and Jacob Felts (left) congratulate each other on their way to the dugout. North Carolina beat Texas, 3-0, Monday afternoon to knock the Longhorns out of the College World Series.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

How do you close the book on a season that looked like it might never end?

After all, the Longhorns slammed the door on elimination so many times you thought it was a made-for-the-movies team of destiny.

Turns out, Augie Garrido’s bunch just overachieved.

“You didn’t see us overwhelm anybody with physical talent,” Garrido said. “It was about attitude and spirit. You saw a lot of physical talent on the two teams we lost to.”

A trip to Omaha came and went as quickly as the recent summer storm. One moment, it seemed, Texas was about to take down mighty Florida. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was down to its final inning of the season to North Carolina.

Brandon Loy popped up to right for the final out of the 3-0 loss to the Tar Heels, and, just like that, the 2011 chapter was finished.

“People probably didn’t think we’d get out of our Regional, and then we lost the first game against Arizona State,” Loy said. “What we’ve done and what we’ve fought through, that’s what I’m thinking about right now.”

This team began the season with grounded expectations — if the slugging Longhorns of 2010 couldn’t make it to Omaha, how could these .272 hitters?

Somehow, they did. Did it with just 17 home runs. Did it with their backs against the wall more than a few times — winning five straight do-or-die games just to get to Omaha. Even did it without a vintage Taylor Jungmann, whose story the past three weeks is equal parts weird and unfair. After cruising to a 13-0 record, he lost his last three attempts. Ultimately, Jungmann admitted he just didn’t have it.

“Mechanically, some things have been going wrong recently,” he said after the 8-4 loss to Florida.

There was no worse a time for Jungmann to break down, but his 0-3 record since regional play shouldn’t do anything to diminish his legacy as one of the best to pitch here — his 32 wins is eighth of all time, and that’s in three years.

“Taylor learned something about himself that he had never learned before,” Garrido said.

“Hopefully he can convert that into a good experience for himself and a life lesson.”

In the span of a month, Augie wrote a book about life and also drew criticism for a profanity-laced excerpt from his documentary that surfaced on YouTube. He helped guide his team as freshman Alex Silver courageously battled with cancer. When Silver defeated the disease, Garrido started him at third base.

“The only way somebody can feel well is if you treat them like they’re well,” he said.

He also turned in the best coaching job this school has seen in a long time, molding a group that struggled to hit into one of the best eight teams in the nation. Honestly, when’s the last time a Texas athletic program overachieved?

All year, the Longhorns relied on pitching and defense. When the first part of that equation forgot to show up in Omaha, any national championship hopes became a bigger long shot.

“It wasn’t meant to be this time,” Garrido said. “We never got the momentum.”

Texas (49-19) will most likely say goodbye to juniors Jungmann, Sam Stafford and Brandon Loy, all high-round draft picks. Second baseman Jordan Etier also could sign as a free agent.

It will definitely say goodbye to seniors Cole Green and Tant Shepherd, who turned down professional money after their junior seasons for the opportunity to come back and help this team improve.

“I told them in the locker room that they had a lot to be proud of,” Garrido said. “What they did by getting the team here was give us a much brighter future.”

Yes, with returnees such as Hoby Milner, Erich Weiss, Corey Knebel and Mark Payton, the future is indeed bright. But looking so far ahead right now only discounts what the Longhorns did this year — stringing together an improbable season filled with little run support, a bunch of life lessons and a few more wins than anybody probably expected.

North Carolina senior center fielder Ben Bunting gets a hit Saturday against Vanderbilt.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

And so the song remains the same.

Texas faces elimination for the 10th time this postseason today against North Carolina in the College World Series.

The Longhorns are 8-1 (including the Big 12 tournament) with their backs against the wall, but know they have a long road out of their bracket ahead of them; the first stop of which is against the Tar Heels.

“We can’t look ahead. We’ve got to focus on North Carolina and move on from there,” said shortstop Brandon Loy. “It’s a tough situation we’re in, but we’ve been in these situations the last couple of weeks, and this team is built
for it.”

The Longhorns know they didn’t play their best against Florida, and will look to limit their mistakes against the Tar Heels.

“Florida capitalized a lot on our mistakes that we made with walks, or whatever it might be with errors,” said third baseman Erich Weiss. “They deserved to win because they capitalized on it, but we’re just going to have to learn from our mistakes when we play North Carolina.”

The Tar Heels have seven left-handers in their lineup, led by switch-hitting shortstop and first-round draft pick Levi Michael. The number of lefties has prompted Texas head coach Augie Garrido to consider starting left-hander Sam Stafford rather than senior right-hander Cole Green. If it were up to Green, he would pitch in the four games it would take to get to the finals out of the loser’s bracket.

“I sacrificed something to be here,” said Green, who turned down a MLB contract to return to Texas for his senior season. “This is what I’ve worked for the whole year.”

It was a tough start to the season for Green, who didn’t pick up his first win until his fourth start. But Green has caught fire the past month, and is arguably pitching the best for Texas when it counts the most.

“I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a humbling year,” Green said. “I had to set goals not based upon results.”

For Green to be successful against Carolina’s left-handed batters, he needs to establish his fastball and throw a lot of strikes early in the count.

Green is 2-0 in four postseason appearances this year, including a five-inning outing against Arizona State in an elimination game of the Super Regional.

Green started the final game of the 2009 College World Series, when Texas lost to LSU. He said he will use what he learned in the loss to LSU, and that pitching doesn’t get any tougher than what he went through in 2009.

“This is what he came back for. He’s a leader on this team, and he’s done everything he can to put us in a position to win,” Loy said. “Cole is definitely the guy we want out there.”

Texas freshman Corey Knebel carries the Longhorn flag during Friday’s opening ceremonies at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Fans were treated to a speech from Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and a 20-minute fireworks show.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

Texas isn’t new to facing elimination this postseason, but the College World Series bracket format does afford the Longhorns with something they haven’t had their previous tournaments — a day off between games.

“I like the day off between elimination games because we get to come out here in practice and kind of forget about things and have some fun,” said junior Brandon Loy. “Y’all probably can’t tell we got beat by the way we acted during practice.”

Loy said that the Longhorns’ will to win is what makes them so dangerous when facing elimination, and their experiences this postseason provide an advantage other teams don’t have.

“This team doesn’t want to go home,” Loy said. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy but it’s a situation we’ve put ourselves in all postseason and we’ve battled our way out of them, and that’s what we’ve got to do again. It’s going to be tough but we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Tinkerbell in the bullpen

The Longhorn bullpen has a strange freshman tradition that some might find humiliating, but it’s a tradition closer Corey Knebel has learned to embrace.

“I have a weird windup, I throw weird and all I throw is fastballs — it’s weird,” Knebel said. “And I got a pink and purple backpack. It’s weird too.”

Freshman pitchers have carried a pink and purple Tinkerbell backpack out to the bullpen the entire season. Assistant strength and conditioning coach Lance Sewell started the tradition years ago by choosing a freshman that doesn’t care what fans or anyone else thinks.

Knebel and fellow freshman reliever Nathan Thornhill trade off wearing the backpack, and have developed a rotation similar to their pitching duties on the team.

“She’s Tinkerbell and I don’t care what anyone thinks,” Knebel said. “Right now, Nathan’s been taking care of her for whenever I’m pitching and he’s in the bullpen. We pretty much call it our baby.”

Brandon Loy (left) and first base coach Travis Tucker walk back to the dugout after another Texas rally falls short.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

OMAHA, Neb.— Texas took an early lead on Florida, but pitcher Taylor Jungmann couldn’t find his rhythm as the Gators rallied to beat Texas 8-4 Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park in the Longhorns' opener at the College World Series.

Florida scored five runs in three innings to take the lead and didn’t look back.

“We played a below average game against a very good team and they were able to capitalize on it and penalize us severely for the mistakes,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “We gave them extra base runners, free bases, and extra outs within the framework of the inning and they’re too good to do that.”

Texas grabbed the lead in the third inning with three runs, the first coming on an RBI single from Tant Shepherd that scored Jacob Felts. Mark Payton followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Jordan Etier, and Weiss finished off the scoring with a sac-fly of his own to score Shepherd.

“Any time we get out to an early lead it’s big for us, but you can’t ever assume anything in baseball,” said Texas shortstop Brandon Loy. “We weren’t assuming we had the game won win we went up three runs.”

The Gators answered in the bottom of the third inning with two runs. Jungmann threw seven of eight pitches for balls to begin the inning and walked the first two batters. Cody Dent got Florida on the board with a single to center field by Bryson Smith, and Nolan Fontana scored later in the inning on a passed ball, after advancing to third base on a wild pitch.

“I walked more guys than I usually do and they took advantage of it,” Jungmann said.

Florida scored twice more in the fourth inning to grab the lead and added another in the fifth to end Jungmann’s day. The junior pitched 4.1 innings and walked four while surrendering five runs on only three hits.

Florida starter Hudson Randall settled after allowing three runs in the third and pitched into the seventh inning, letting one more run score. Randall didn’t walk a batter, and only one of the four runs was earned.

“We got on him early and then we kind of backed down off him,” Etier said. “They fought back and they got momentum on their side and he was able to build off of that. If we would have stayed with that I think we could be on the other side of this ball game.”

Texas scored a run to get within one in the seventh off a double from Etier, but Florida answered in the bottom of the frame with a 2-run double from Brian Johnson that, after further replay, should have been ruled a home run.

Prior to the double, the play on a routine groundball was made difficult when a balk was called on Texas reliever Andrew McKirahan. Tant Shepherd was unable to make the play as the Gators had runners safely on first and second. McKirahan got the next batter to fly out, which could have been the third out had the previous play been made. Johnson was then able to take advantage of the earlier play with his double.

“The play before the balk, I thought about telling Andrew [about his motion], so as soon as the balk call happened, I put my head down a little bit and they swung away,” said Loy, who should have been on second for Shepherd to throw to. “Tant looked at me to throw the ball and I obviously wasn’t on the bag, because I was mad at myself. It was a mental error on my part.”

The Longhorns will face North Carolina on Monday as they make their way through the loser’s bracket, something they’re all too familiar with this postseason. Florida will face Vanderbilt later that day.

“There have been championships that have been won out of the losers bracket before, so we know it can be done,” Garrido said. “We have an opportunity, and we’ll have to fight our way back.”

After struggling for most of the season, Kevin Lusson heated up during regional play, hitting two homeruns.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

Against a Florida team that averages almost 6.5 runs a game, Texas is going to need just about everybody to contribute offensively Saturday night. Here’s a look at some of the Longhorns that are on a roll, and some that aren’t.


WHO’S HOT

Kevin Lusson: His batting average is still a pedestrian .211, but Lusson swung the bat the past two weeks with a conviction we haven’t seen all season. In regional play, the junior designated hitter drove in seven runs in five games — two three-run homers and a walk-off single. Lusson has registered a hit in the seven NCAA postseason games he’s played in, a positive sign for a guy who struggled to hit above .200 for the regular season.

Brandon Loy: The junior shortstop came up big in the third game against Arizona State, a 4-2 Texas win, with a 3-for-4 performance and a pair of RBI-doubles. The new three-hole hitter took some time to get adjusted to his new spot in the order — if this list was formulated a mere week ago, he wouldn’t have made it — but got hot at just the right time for the Longhorns.

Tant Shepherd: The Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Austin Regional, Shepherd had a big hand in helping Texas stave off elimination. The senior first baseman went 8-for-14 and drove in five runs out of the leadoff spot, his first time hitting first since last season.

Jacob Felts: Give Felts his due. The freshman may not be the most talented catcher in recent school history, but the past two weeks suggest he just might be the toughest. He had six hits in the eight regional games — impressive for a guy who hovered around the Mendoza Line during the regular season. Even given Felts’ good hitting, his biggest impact in these playoffs has been on defense. No play was bigger than when he held on tight as Arizona State’s Michael Benjamin crashed into him at home plate in game two, blocking the plate and applying a strong tag to prevent a tying run.


WHO’S NOT

Paul Montalbano: After surging in the final half of the regular season, the senior outfielder notched just three hits in eight NCAA postseason games, and his batting average has dipped to .279. Once the five-hole hitter, Montalbano has given way to Jonathan Walsh and is now hitting near the bottom of the order.

Jordan Etier: His three-run long ball in game two against ASU was possibly the biggest at-bat of Texas’ season, widening the Longhorns’ lead from one to four in the ninth inning. It also covered up a disturbing fact. Excluding his 3-for-4, three-RBI game against the Sun Devils, Etier was stuck in Slump City during NCAA postseason play, registering five hits in 25 at-bats and striking out seven times in eight games.

Tant Shepherd crosses home plate against Arizona State this past week. Shepherd has seen a rise in production since moving to the leadoff spot .

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas head coach Augie Garrido announced he would be unveiling a new, unorthodox batting lineup before regional play began, a few Longhorns weren’t so sure what their coach was thinking.
A few players voiced their confusion at the change, wondering what the thinking was behind it.
The change? Garrido decided to swap Tant Shepherd and Brandon Loy in the lineup, putting Shepherd at leadoff and Loy in the three-hole.
At the time, it seemed like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Shepherd, the senior first baseman, did not seem like the ideal leadoff hitter the team needed. It wasn’t because Shepherd doesn’t have the ideal table-setter speed. He attests to having some of the best wheels on the team. It was just that you usually want your power hitters to have opportunities to hit with guys on base.
“There’s a huge difference in your mindset for your first at-bat of the game,” Shepherd said.
And Loy, the junior shortstop who possesses an ideal skill set for a leadoff hitter — quick, smart and a contact hitter with excellent bat control — would now be asked to hit with runners in scoring position.
After a sample of two weeks of play, the move seems to be paying off.
In the Austin Regional, Shepherd and Loy combined to go 12-for-32 from the plate (for an average of .375) and teamed up to draw in six runs and walk 10 times. Shepherd was named the Most Outstanding Player of the regional and even got to flash some of his power, hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning in Texas’ 5-3 win over Princeton.
Results were just as good this past weekend in the Super Regionals, a three-game series against Arizona State. The duo hit .360 in three games and Loy stood out with a fantastic 3-for-4, 2 RBI outing in the decisive game three and a 4-2 Texas win.
The move has worked out because it allows Shepherd, who experimented at leadoff last year, and Loy to play to their strengths.
“I’m definitely faster than Brandon,” Shepherd said. “I’m the fastest infielder on the team.”
In terms of pitches seen, the move makes sense. Leadoff hitters traditionally see mostly fastballs — Shepherd’s specialty. Guys in the three-hole get fed more off-speed pitches — not Shepherd’s specialty.
“I didn’t really change my approach, the pitching is different,” Loy said. “Tant’s a fastball guy, and he gets those at leadoff. I see more breaking balls at the three-hole so I just have to be a little bit more patient and have to expect something off-speed.”
Loy’s scouting report during his freshman and sophomore years might have read something like this: intelligent, an excellent fielder, great bunter, no power.
None of that has changed. In his career, Loy has hit two homers. A fifth-round pick by the Detroit Tigers, he was drafted mostly for his glove and his intangibles, as well as a batting average that continues to rise. It is a bit odd that one of the more power-deprived players on the team bats third, but this Texas team does not have a typical offense.
“We’re not a team to hit a lot of home runs,” said third baseman Erich Weiss. “We play really smart baseball though, we like to get on base.”
The ability for Shepherd and Loy to move around in the lineup has made the top of the order strong heading into Omaha. Mark Payton, a freshman, has solidified himself as the two-hole hitter and resident bunter in Augie-ball. Weiss, also a freshman and carrying the team’s best average, bats fourth.
“It’s a little different. We’ve talked about doing more hit-and-runs with Brandon at the three-hole,” Weiss said. “I think it’s great.”
Both Payton and Weiss would agree that, in hindsight, the 1-3 swap looks brilliant, with Weiss calling it “clutch” and Payton going a step farther.
“It’s one of the smartest moves I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” he said. “Who knows what would have happened if coach Garrido didn’t make that change.”

This article appears in print as: "Shepard, Loy benefit from change in lineup, continue to produce runs"

Longhorns scored four runs in sixth inning, allowed only two hits to post win over Rice

Sophomore Sam Stafford throws a pitch in Texas’ 5-1 win over Rice on Tuesday night. Stafford made his first career start for the Longhorns as he worked over 3.0 innings, retiring all nine batters he faced, with two strikeouts.

Photo Credit: Eric Ou | Daily Texan Staff

Thanks to a four-run sixth inning, Texas won its series against Rice on Tuesday 5-1 in the final game of a season-long three-game series.

Despite not getting any hits in the entire sixth inning, the Horns were able to put up four runs. Shortstop Brandon Loy started the inning out with a soft grounder to short that would have been an out but was thrown into the stands, putting Loy on second with no outs.

“The thing we’ve been worried about lately is getting up there and swinging at good pitches and putting the ball in play,” Loy said. “I went up there and ... obviously it wasn’t a hard-hit ball. I put an OK swing on it, and it rolled over to shortstop, and fortunately he threw it away and got the inning started. That led to a bunch of walks and a bunch of runs.”

Cameron Rupp was next at bat, and he walked on a wild pitch on ball four that allowed Loy to advance to third. Kevin Keyes was next up to bat and was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Kevin Lusson, the third batter in a row to get on base thanks to a walk, which scored Loy. Rupp would later score on another wild pitch and Keyes would score on a passed ball. The final run of the inning came courtesy of a Jonathan Walsh sacrifice fly that brought home Lusson, giving the Horns four runs on zero hits.

“To come out here and take our walks and take what the other guy was gonna give us, it was encouraging,” Loy said.

“What’s to say,” Rice head coach Wayne Graham said. “We walked them. Started with an error and we walked them. Anatomy of disaster.”

Thanks to that disaster of a sixth inning for Rice, Texas was able to put more runs on the board than it had hits.

“When you give up five runs on three hits, that’s not very good,” Graham said.

“We’re letting them make their mistakes,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “When they wanted to get wild, we let them get wild.”

Sophomore Sam Stafford was on the mound for Texas for his first career start, which couldn’t have gone any better. Staffor used his fastball to set up for his record-breaking two strikeouts and force five groundouts.

“I was pretty comfortable coming in today with the fastball, and the curveball I was able to throw for strikes,” Stafford said. “That’s always good when you’re able to do that with your curveball.”

Stafford faced the minimum of nine batters in three innings of perfect pitching before Garrido pulled him for Austin Dicharry in an effort to protect Stafford.

“He’s done that in scrimmages,” Garrido said about Stafford’s performance. “He’s been brilliant for three innings. We wanted to get him out. And in a game situation, with the adrenaline rush, you’re going to go fewer than you are in a practice environment. It was two or three [innings].”

Home run leader Jordan Etier broke the scoring seal for the game when he launched the ball over the left-center fence to give Texas a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on an 0-1 count. Etier’s fifth dinger of the season wasn’t what he was hoping for, though.

“I was just trying to see a ball I could hit and get a line drive,” Etier said. “I just missed it a little bit, and it got up in the wind.”

Ruffin came in the sixth and only gave up one hit and one walk while recording three strikeouts for his fourth win of the season.

Baseball

Jacob Felts is tagged out at home after trying to score from third base in the seventh inning.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns have dug themselves into a hole again.

Eight hits and 7.1 solid innings of work from Taylor Jungmann were not enough to get past Arizona State in the first game of this Austin Super Regional, and, after a 3-1 loss, Texas now must win two consecutive games to make it to Omaha.

A sloppy third inning was the root of the loss. Second baseman Jordan Etier botched a double-play opportunity — mishandling a throw from Jungmann and allowing the ball to squirt past him — giving ASU’s Andrew Aplin enough time to score from second base. The Sun Devils pushed across another unearned run in the inning, as Joey DiMichele notched RBI-double into centerfield.

With one out, Aplin had reached on a fielding error after Tant Shepherd was unable to handle a sharp grounder. Jungmann (13-2) then walked Johnny Ruettiger, which put runners on first and second. ASU’s Deven Marrero chopped a slow roller to the pitcher’s mound, and, as Jungmann fielded it, it looked like a double play in the making. Too bad Etier and shortstop Brandon Loy were unsure of the proper recipient.

“That one little thing separated the two teams,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “Taylor wasn’t sure who was covering second, Brandon and Etier weren’t quite sure who was doing it. That threw the game off.”

Garrido said Etier, in that situation, needed to cover that bag. But Loy admitted a lack of communication before the play and Jungmann took some blame, too.

“It’s just a lack of communication. The pitcher’s job is to throw it at the bag. With the lack of communication, I threw the ball down a little towards the bag instead of up, where it wouldn’t have gone to the outfield,” Jungmann said.

The Longhorns pushed across a run in the bottom half of the frame thanks to a Brandon Loy single, but squandered the opportunity to tie the game when Paul Montalbano grounded into an inning-ending double play with Loy on third.

“We’ve got to find a way to pick Taylor up,” Loy said. “We had a situation with runners on first and third and we really could have bailed ourselves out, but we ground into that double play. It happens.”

Arizona State’s starting pitcher Brady Rodgers (9-4) allowed eight hits but ceded only one run.

“They pounded the zone and when you do that and throw three pitches for strikes, it makes it hard,” Loy said.

After putting together another fruitless rally in the seventh — with a man on third and only one out, they still couldn’t plate a run — the Longhorns rolled over for dead, unable to even get a runner on base in the final two innings.

“I thought we competed offensively, but their defense was sensational,” Garrido said. “They made plays when they needed to make them, they made pitches when they needed to make them. Therein lies a little bit of the separation.”

It is most likely Jungmann’s final outing ever at UFCU Disch-Falk, the second home loss of his career.

“I’m not even thinking about that [last home game],” he said. “It’s about the next game.”

Texas has proven successful when facing elimination thus far. After last Saturday’s loss to Kent State, it won three straight games by a combined score of 18-6. Furthermore, the Longhorns average a winning streak of three games after each loss this season.

“We’ve got a lot of fight,” Loy said. “It’s a no-tomorrow situation. There’s a lot of guys on this team and this could be their last game at Texas, and we don’t want that to happen.”