left fielder

The Longhorns struggled all weekend to figure out the Jaywhawk pitching staff.

In the first two games of the series, Texas only managed to score four runs on eight hits and through four innings in the rubber match on Sunday, it was more of the same from the Longhorns.

But then the fifth inning rolled around and after the first three batters of the inning reached on singles, the floodgates finally opened for the Longhorns. Seven runs crossed the plate for Texas in the inning, including a walk-off three-run triple from freshman left fielder Stephanie Wong as the Longhorns won 8-0 to take a 2-1 series victory.

“We were looking for one pitch,” Wong said.

The Longhorns struggled Friday and Saturday to figure out Kansas ace Kelsey Kessler, who despite not throwing fast, kept Texas off balance with movement. Texas helped her out in those games swinging early in the count.

On Sunday, however, the Longhorns made Kessler work, forcing 10 full-counts against the sophomore. While it didn’t have an immediate effect as Texas scored only one run through the first four innings, the strategy did force her to throw 62 pitches through the first two innings.

Head coach Connie Clark said they were trying to avoid the “junk” from Kessler.

“We were just trying to be more patient in general and get pitches that we can hit and handle better,” Clark said.

Then came the fifth inning. Wong, who had come into the game in a slump, led off the inning with a single to center, which was followed by back-to-back bunt base hits by sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo and senior center fielder Brejae Washington. A ground out, squeeze bunt and two singles upped the Texas lead to 5-0 before Wong stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning.

With the bases loaded, Wong took a 1-2 pitch to left which Kansas left fielder Taylor Hatfield misplayed, leading to a three-run triple to give Texas the run-rule win.

“It felt great to finally drive the ball,” Wong said. “I’ve been working through some things and it all came together on that pitch.”

The offensive burst came just in time for freshman ace Tiarra Davis, who had to bounce back from a rough Saturday start. In that game, Davis only pitched an inning, while giving up three runs in a 5-2 loss.

But in the game Sunday, Davis pitched with confidence, allowing only one hit in the first three innings. In the fourth, Kansas loaded the bases with one out. But, like she’s done all season, Davis managed to get out of the jam with a foul out to the catcher and a pop out to short.

“I had a talk with Mandy [Ogle] and Coach Clark right before I went out there and they just really calmed me down,” Davis said.

Texas will play Baylor twice in the span of six days, traveling up to Waco to make up the game that was rained out on March 23 and then hosting the Bears next Sunday. In the first meeting, Texas opened conference play behind a dominant performance from Davis and solid hitting for a 4-1 win.

While the offense has been up and down over the past three series, Davis said that the big last inning gives them momentum going into the final two games.

“It’s about finishing out strong and we’ve got two more opportunities to do that,” Clark said.

Ben Johnson led the Longhorns past UT-Arlington on Tuesday evening with a 2-for-3 effort at the plate, along with three RBIs and four runs scored. Texas had little trouble against the Mavericks in a 10-2 victory. 

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

After just one hit through the first two innings, sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson made sure Tuesday night wouldn’t be a repeat for Texas.

The sixth-ranked Longhorns (30-8, 9-3 Big 12) knocked off UT-Arlington (16-21) 10-2, extending the team’s win-streak to four games after their sweep of Oklahoma over the weekend. Texas tallied seven hits against the Mavericks, a number that made head coach Augie Garrido happy after his team got just one hit last Tuesday night.

“It seemed almost like a minor league professional game,” Garrido said. “There wasn’t a lot of energy, but there was a whole heck of a lot of good plays. They have a spirit and an energy about them that’s called confidence, and I think they’re sticking to the fundamentals of the game, and they’re sticking to the code.”

UT-Arlington struck first in the ball game, chasing freshman pitcher Blake Goins after just one inning and taking a 1-0 lead heading to the third. Following a Zane Gurwitz single, Johnson smashed his team-leading fourth home run over the left-field wall to give Texas a lead it would never give up.

“I think we captured a lot of the momentum with our pitching, oddly enough,” Garrido said. “I think [sophomore pitcher] Chad Hollingsworth, when he came into the game, turned the game around.”

Texas padded its lead in the fourth inning, showcasing great plate discipline in the process. Johnson singled in another run before back-to-back walks, and a sacrifice fly by junior outfielder Collin Shaw added two more to make the Longhorns’ lead 6-1 after four innings.

UT-Arlington’s only threat came in the top of the fifth inning when it scored on an RBI single to make the Texas lead 6-2. The Longhorns responded again in the bottom half of the sixth when Johnson came across the plate for the third time on a wild pitch.

The Longhorns notched its third three-run outburst of the game when freshman catcher Tres Barrera cleared the bases with a three-RBI triple. With that hit, Barrera eclipsed the 0.300 mark for batting average for the first time this season.

“I think we just played really consistent throughout and put a lot of runs on the board,” Johnson said. “We did a great job of executing. We’ve been doing that the last couple of weeks and it’s really been paying off for us.”

Johnson’s 2-for-3 and three-RBI performance raised his batting average eight points to 0.295, good enough for third-best on the team behind senior outfielder Mark Payton (0.348) and Barrera (0.302).

Texas will look to extend its win streak Thursday when it hosts the first game of its three-game series with TCU.

“We’re anxious,” Johnson said. “I mean obviously [The Horned Frogs are] a really good team. [They have a] great pitching staff with Brandon Finnegan, and a bunch of those guys [are] potential first round draft picks. We’re excited. We love facing those kind of pitchers, and we’re really excited for this weekend.”

Photo Credit: Zoe Davis | Daily Texan Staff

The plan was for sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson to hit eighth, putting speed at the bottom of the order, but head coach Augie Garrido accidentally turned in the wrong lineup card, one that had Johnson in the six hole.

“I filled out two lineups before the game,” Garrido said. “I didn’t realize I turned in the wrong card until I looked at the scoreboard.”

The mistake ended up being a blessing in disguise as Johnson had a big two-out, two-run single in the first to break open the game — a spot he wouldn’t have been in had Garrido turned in the right lineup card.

“I thought I was hitting eighth,” Johnson said. “But I came out and saw I was hitting sixth. I got a good pitch to hit and made the most of it.”

Led by Johnson, the No. 10 Longhorns beat Valparaiso 7-1 in the first matchup between the schools Tuesday night in front of a small, chilly crowd at UFCU Disch-Falk field.

Johnson accounted for four of Texas’ seven runs, finishing his night with two hits, two RBIs, two runs, one walk and one stolen base.

It didn’t take the Longhorns long to get on the board against a Valparaiso team (4-6) that entered the day with a 6.57 ERA. After a walk and a fielder’s choice, sophomore shortstop C.J Hinojosa punched an outside pitch from Dalton Lundeen (0-1) to the right to put runners on the corner and one out — a perfect situation for Augie-ball.

The cleanup hitter, freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens, laid down the safety squeeze to score senior center fielder Mark Payton for the first run. A few batters later, Johnson pulled one through the left side of the infield to give Texas an early 3-0 advantage.

“The three runs loosened everyone up,” Garrido said.

The Texas offense wasn’t finished after that, scoring four more runs by the end of the fifth.

The three first inning runs would have been enough for the collection of seven Texas pitchers, who combined to allow just one run on four hits.

Freshman pitcher Blake Goins (1-0), a 12th-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels out of high school, started things for the Longhorns on the hill, going three scoreless innings and allowing just one hit. Freshman reliever Josh Sawyer allowed the lone Valparaiso run in his one inning, a product of two walks and wild pitches, but he left the bases loaded to avoid further damage and sustain a 3-1 advantage.

In addition to Johnson’s strong day, junior second baseman Brooks Marlow did what leadoff hitters should do: reach base. In five trips to the plate, he reached four times.

The Longhorns (10-3) have now won five in a row and nine of their last 11.

“We have all the confidence in the world,” Johnson said.

South Carolina's Peter Mooney is greeted at the dugout after he hit a solo home run against Florida in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the NCAA baseball College World Series best-of-three finals, in Omaha, Neb., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

OMAHA, Neb. — South Carolina coach Ray Tanner didn't go into the season expecting to win a second straight national championship.

His Gamecocks did that in record fashion, becoming the first team to go 10-0 in an NCAA tournament and the first since Oregon State in 2007 to go unbeaten in a CWS with Tuesday night's 5-2 win that completed a two-game sweep of Florida.

"The statistics, the percentages of doing that are stacked against you," Tanner said. "The only thing I kept holding onto was, 'Let's have a good team. Let's have a good season. Let's get to the postseason. Let's get a chance to go to a regional.

"And then you try to do well when you get there."
Oh, the Gamecocks did well, all right.

The Gamecocks (55-14) retooled their pitching staff, star center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. missed two months with a broken wrist and first baseman Christian Walker played through the same injury during the CWS finals.

Two of their five wins here came in walkoff fashion, and they worked out of bases-loaded situations four times over two games and had left fielder Jake Williams throw out a runner at the plate to prevent Florida from scoring the winning run in Game 1 of the finals.

By comparison, the clinching victory was downright boring.
Michael Roth pitched 7 2-3 innings on three days' rest and the Gamecocks were in control throughout.

The Gamecocks have the distinction of winning the first CWS at TD Ameritrade Park after winning the last one played at Rosenblatt Stadium.

"Beginning of the year I said we finished at the old one, so let's try to open the new one up," said second baseman Scott Wingo, voted the CWS' Most Outstanding Player.

"Coach wasn't sure we would get it, but I'm the type of guy who felt we were going to do it. I was thinking of the Oregon State team the whole year. I had a feeling we would get back and win this thing, and we did."

South Carolina became the first team to ever go 10-0 in an NCAA tournament and the first since Oregon State in 2007 to go unbeaten in a CWS.

The Gamecocks' streaks of 16 NCAA tournament wins and 11 straight in the CWS are both the longest all-time.
They became the sixth team to win consecutive national titles and first since Oregon State in 2006-07.

"We're not the most talented team, and we don't have the best players position for position," Roth said, "but we go out and stick together as a team. We battle. I can't describe it. We're a bunch of average Joes and love each other and come out and battle."

Peter Mooney doubled to start a three-run third inning in the matchup of SEC rivals and hit the Gamecocks' first home run of the CWS in the sixth.

After giving up four runs in the first inning of their opener against Texas A&M, the Gamecocks allowed just six in their other 50 innings here.

"They earned this one," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They were a little bit better than us in all phases. They pitched a little bit better. They hit a little bit better. They played a little bit better defense and they earned it."

Three of the Gamecocks' first four wins here came in their last at-bat and included incredible pitching and defensive performances in the late innings.
No drama was necessary Tuesday.

"You have to be a little lucky to win this game," Tanner said. "We were living a charmed life."

Wingo had the winning hit in the bottom of the ninth against Texas A&M and made two great plays to keep Florida (53-19) from scoring late in the game Monday. He batted .333 and drove in four runs.

"He's been so valuable to this program," Tanner said. "He loves this program. He has fun. That's how you have to play
this game."

Roth (14-3), who pitched seven innings against Virginia on Friday, gave up five hits and two runs before leaving in the eighth. He started last year's national championship game but didn't get the decision.

"Mike has the biggest heart of anyone I've seen on the field," said South Carolina's Christian Walker, who played the last two games with a broken left wrist. "You want him out there even if he's not 100 percent."

Among pitchers who have worked 30 innings at the CWS, Roth's 1.17 ERA over 38 1-3 innings the past two years ranks second all-time behind Ohio State's Steve Arlin, who had a 0.96 ERA over 47 innings in 1965-66.

Roth came in with a 0.98 ERA for the season and held Florida without a run after it got leadoff men on base in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Roth left with two outs the next inning after giving up a double to Mike Zunino, who later scored on Josh Adams' single off John Taylor.

Matt Price worked 1 1-3 innings for his 20th save.

Florida starter Karsten Whitson (8-1) came out strong, mixing in his mid-90s fastball to strike out three of the first six batters.

But South Carolina scored three runs in the third after Mooney's leadoff double into the left-field corner. Whitson, a freshman who was the No. 9 overall draft pick by the San Diego Padres in 2010, left with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth.

"I just think I started nibbling a little bit and pitched behind the count, walked a couple of guys, hit a few," Whitson said. "It wasn't very good execution on my part. Just tried to keep my team in the game as best as possible."

The Gators made it a two-run game when Zunino hit Roth's 84-mph slider into the seats in left for his 19th homer of the season — and first off Roth since April 22.

For all the great memories left behind at Rosenblatt, the Gamecocks already have created a bunch at the new stadium.

There was Wingo's bases-loaded single to beat Texas A&M in the bottom of the ninth in their opener.

There was Price getting out of bases-loaded situations three times against Virginia on Friday before two errant throws on bunts produced the winning run.

And then there was Wingo throwing out runners at home from second base with bases loaded in the ninth and 10th innings and left fielder Jake Williams nailing Cody Dent at the plate in the 11th before Walker scored the winning run in the bottom of the inning on two Florida throwing errors.

"Just the fact we can stay loose in situations like this," Walker said. "These guys have an unbelievable amount of love for each other."