Kody Clemens and his Longhorn squad have made one thing clear: they will ride or die wearing their emotions on their sleeve. For now, they've survived to see another day.
The difference between Texas and Tennessee Tech’s use of emotions on the diamond was apparent almost immediately after the Austin Super Regional began.
David Pierce was honest following game one –– his team was frustrated. The Longhorns took a lead, then lost it, then retook it — just to lose it one more time in the Longhorns’ 5-4 loss to Tennessee Tech in game one on Saturday. With only five hits on the day, there was plenty of reason for frustration.
“We’ve got to stay in the moment and not let our frustrations take over. I thought we had a lot of frustration today,” Pierce said after the game one loss. “A couple of guys were really tight.”
That wasn’t the case for game two, simply because of one player: junior second baseman Kody Clemens, who after blasting home run No. 23 of the season, stared down the Tennessee Tech dugout and flashed the ‘hook’em’ sign as he approached home plate.
The Golden Eagles’ dugout was visibly displeased. Clemens’ stare down was almost identical to the looks he served the Texas A&M dugout during last week’s regional.
Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress simply said, “If you don’t like it, make a better pitch.”
Tennessee Tech head coach Matt Bragga’s response to Clemens’ stare down wasn’t as blunt, but was equally as understanding.
“When he did that, it is what it is,” Bragga said. “Hey, I get it, it’s the heat of the moment. He’s excited, they’re up, he hit a big home run, more power to him. I understand that. It’s part of the game.”
As for his own team, Bragga acknowledged that his team didn’t necessarily play emotionally, but was rather “uptight,” despite being in the driver’s seat after winning game one.
“You can't play baseball that way,” Bragga said. “You’ve got to play free and easy. Our job as a coaching staff is to make sure our guys are as loose as possible.”
When Texas returns to Disch-Falk Field for game three tomorrow with a trip to the College World Series hanging in the balance, sitting in the visitors' dugout will again be Tennessee Tech: a team that, for the most part, likes to keep its emotions in check.
“I think you have to be careful because baseball is not football,” Bragga said. “In football, now, it becomes personal, and now there’s an intensity level. That helps you. In baseball, you have to be careful when emotions start rising … what you’re doing is focusing on the other team. … Our program is not fueled on emotions. When we play emotional baseball, it is not as good.”
That isn’t Texas’ brand of baseball. Despite getting frustrated throughout the game one loss, Texas has committed to riding or dying in playing off of emotion. And as game two came to an end, the Longhorns were able to survive off of it.
“If we don’t feed off of emotion, we’re dead the whole time — there’s nothing going on,” junior pitcher Chase Shugart said. “So we feed off of emotion, it makes us better and it makes us competitive.”
Now, Texas and Tennessee Tech will battle one more time. The winner will head to the College World Series. The loser will be eliminated from the NCAA tournament.
Emotions will likely be at an all-time high. It just depends on what each team is able to do with them.