- Elizabeth Merrill
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OMAHA, Neb. -- One guy was so frustrated that he started talking to his glove. Another fired the ball to second base, only there wasn't anybody covering second base. Things couldn't have looked much worse for the Texas baseball team at the start of Tuesday night's game.
But here's the thing about these Longhorns -- they've been through just about everything in the past month, from a 25-inning NCAA tournament game to a near upset last weekend at the College World Series. So how bad could a six-run deficit be?
On a night that seemed automatic for Arizona State, with All-American pitcher Mike Leake on the mound and a huge cushion, Texas stormed back for a 10-6 victory.
There is a reason coach Augie Garrido has won five titles in Omaha, and it could be traced back to the calm meeting he had with his team after that disastrous third inning. He reminded the Longhorns that they'd scored 11 runs in an inning before, that they'd hung on in the longest game in NCAA history a few weeks ago. "How good is it going to feel to come back and win this game?" Garrido told them.
The 70-year-old coach was asked late Tuesday how he rides these highs and lows.
"With a seat belt," Garrido said. "You just hold on for the ride, man. This is like going to the rodeo and trying to ride one of those bulls. You try to stay on for eight seconds. You know it's going to buck you off sooner or later."
But it was the Sun Devils who were knocked on their backs late Tuesday. Leake is widely considered the second-best pitcher in the country, No. 2 behind 102-mph phenom Stephen Strasburg. Leake had gone seven or more innings in his last 15 starts. He hadn't allowed more than four runs in a game all year, and carried a 1.36 ERA.
He lasted just 3 1/3 innings Tuesday, giving up eight hits and five earned runs.
"With Mike Leake on the mound and a six-run lead, we felt pretty good about ourselves," ASU coach Pat Murphy said. "But that just shows you how great our game is, how beautiful college baseball is and how great of an event this is. The best teams are here, and the best team fought back to win tonight."
You just hold on for the ride, man. This is like going to the rodeo and trying to ride one of those bulls. You try to stay on for eight seconds. You know it's going to buck you off sooner or later.
--Texas coach Augie Garrido
Roughly three hours earlier, Arizona State appeared to be running away with it. Carlos Ramirez crushed a chest-high pitch more than 400 feet to give the Sun Devils a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. The Longhorns were imploding and appeared rattled. Catcher Cameron Rupp tried to throw out Matt Newman at second, with nobody covering. By the end of the inning, they'd fallen into a 6-0 hole.
"You know, I actually looked at my glove and was talking to it, like, 'What are you doing?'" said Texas second baseman Travis Tucker, who committed the other error in that disastrous third.
"You can't give up on any game. There's always a chance, no matter how much you're down."
Tucker and Rupp made up for their mistakes. Rupp hit a three-run homer to right field in the fourth, and Tucker's squeeze-bunt single helped the Longhorns erupt for three more runs to tie it later that inning.
Rupp's first-pitch leadoff homer in the seventh gave Texas a 7-6 lead.
Freshman Taylor Jungmann frustrated the Sun Devils the rest of the night. The tall Texan, who is normally a starter, allowed just two hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking one.
Jungmann had two deep-ball scares at the end, when Carlos Ramirez lifted a pitch to the left-field warning track in the eighth and slugger Kole Calhoun sent one to the center-field wall in the ninth. The Longhorns corralled both of them, putting Texas one game away from the best-of-three championship.
"When we were up 6-0, we kind of laid back," Calhoun said. "I guess we were thinking we would be cruising."
But now Arizona State needs to beat North Carolina on Thursday (ESPN2HD/ESPN360, 7 p.m. ET) to stay alive in Omaha. Leake couldn't explain it, how things shifted so fast. Murphy wondered if his pitcher, the No. 8 pick in the draft, had too long of a break in that 30-minute offensive explosion his team put together in the third.
"We're not done yet," Murphy said with a grin late Tuesday. "As goofy and as young as this team is, we've got an opportunity."
Elizabeth Merrill is a senior writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Texas didn't panic after falling behind 6-0 to Arizona State with the Sun Devils' ace on the mound. After surviving a 25-inning marathon in a regional and a CWS game that was decided by a walk-off walk, the Longhorns are prepared for just about anything.