Commentary

Jungmann, UT force Game 3 with LSU

Originally Published: June 24, 2009
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- Most baseball coaches like to avoid lengthy rain delays.

Coaches don't like to have their pitchers starting and then restarting, or have their hitters anxiously waiting around the dugout long after they've had batting practice.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Jungmann
Elsa/Getty ImagesTaylor Jungmann turned in a dominating performance to keep Texas' title hopes alive. The freshman went nine innings, striking out nine and giving up five hits.

But when Texas coach Augie Garrido saw the skies darken above Rosenblatt Stadium on Tuesday night, he believed a heavy downpour was exactly what the Longhorns needed as they prepared to play LSU in the second game of the College World Series championship series.

After losing to the Tigers 7-6 in 11 innings Monday night, Texas had to win two games in a row to claim the school's seventh national championship.

Garrido knew the Longhorns' best chance to win Tuesday night's game was to have freshman pitcher Taylor Jungmann on the mound for as long as possible.

But Garrido knew that Jungmann, who had thrown six pitches in relief on Monday, probably wouldn't last long in the stifling heat of Omaha.

"When we first got off the bus, it was steamy," Garrido said.

But by the time the Longhorns actually took the field after a 1-hour, 34-minute rain delay, they were greeted by relatively cool temperatures.

And Jungmann proved to be a much different pitcher than he was the night before, throwing a complete game with nine strikeouts in the Longhorns' 5-1 victory.

It was the first complete game at the CWS since 2006, and it forced a winner-take-all game between the teams for the national championship Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN360).

"There was the rain, and it played an important part in the game tonight," Garrido said. "It took the temperature down. It helped Taylor finish the game. His teammates got him the lead. I've always thought the best thing for a curveball is a four-run lead."

The best thing for the Longhorns on Tuesday night was having Jungmann back on the mound. Jungmann was forced into action Monday night, even though Garrido knew the right-handed pitcher would be his starter the next night.

With the Longhorns holding a 6-4 lead with one out in the ninth inning, Jungmann came into the game Monday night and threw six pitches -- every one of them a ball.

Jungmann walked third baseman Derek Helenihi on four pitches to put LSU runners at first and second, then fell behind pinch hitter Tyler Hanover with a 2-0 count. Garrido went to the mound and pulled Jungmann in the middle of Hanover's at-bat.

Freshman Austin Dicharry struck out Hanover for the second out, but then gave up DJ LeMahieu's two-run double that tied the score at 6. The Tigers won the game 7-6 on freshman Mikie Mahtook's RBI single in the 11th.

Less than 24 hours after yanking Jungmann off the mound, Garrido handed him the baseball again and asked him to keep the Longhorns' season alive for one more day.

"I was very confident," Garrido said. "It was my decision to put him in that position last night. It was a decision made in haste. I put him into something he wasn't prepared for. I have the utmost confidence in the simple approach he has to pitching, his skills and talent. He is a pitcher and a real good one."

[+] EnlargeRussell Moldenhauer
Elsa/Getty ImagesTexas DH Russell Moldenhauer hit his fourth home run in Omaha in the Longhorns' win over LSU to tie a CWS record.

Jungmann was better than ever against LSU, allowing only an unearned run on five hits with two walks. He threw 126 pitches and retired 11 of the last 13 hitters he faced.

The pitcher with the silent "J" in front of his last name -- it's actually pronounced "YOUNG-man" -- silenced LSU's hitters for more than three hours. The Tigers had been 37-3 against right-handed starting pitchers this season.

"He just changed speeds well and kept pitches down in the zone," Tigers right fielder Jared Mitchell said. "He stayed in the zone and made it tough for us."

Jungmann had come through in critical games for the Longhorns this season. He was the winning pitcher in Texas' 5-2 victory over TCU in the Austin Super Regional on June 8, pitching six scoreless innings as UT clinched its record 33rd CWS appearance.

After the Longhorns arrived in Omaha, Jungmann recorded the final two outs in Texas' 7-6 victory over Southern Mississippi in its opening game. Then he pitched the final 5 2/3 innings of a 10-6 win over Arizona State two days later. And when Texas needed Jungmann more than ever against LSU, he threw the first complete game of his college career.

"I saved it for the end, man," Jungmann said. "It was really just pounding the zone and throwing strikes and going right after hitters."

The Longhorns scored all the runs they needed in the first three innings. Left fielder Preston Clark hit a solo homer in the second for a 2-0 lead, and designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer hit a solo homer in the third -- his fourth home run at the CWS -- to make it 3-1. Texas scored two more runs in the third, which was more than Jungmann needed to win.

The loss ended LSU's 14-game winning streak. It was the SEC champion's first defeat since a 4-1 loss to Vanderbilt on May 20.

"I think we'll stay around here in Omaha for another day, if that's OK," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "It would have been nice to win tonight and wrap it up, obviously, but that kid that pitched for them had a lot to do with us sticking around. He was outstanding. He had good velocity and a good slider."

Mainieri was concerned about how the heat and humidity in Omaha might affect his pitchers, too. So much so that he decided to rest sophomore pitcher Anthony Ranaudo for another day. Mainieri considered starting Ranaudo, who pitched six shutout innings in a 14-5 victory over Arkansas on Friday night. But Mainieri didn't think Ranaudo would last too long in the heat. So Mainieri went with No. 3 starter Austin Ross, who lasted only two innings.

Mainieri said he didn't consider changing his mind even after the skies opened up over Rosenblatt Stadium about an hour before the scheduled 7 p.m. ET start.

"I don't know if I would have done it anyway," Mainieri said. "Anthony has never pitched on three days' rest. Even if he goes out there and is great, what if we lose 2-1? How demoralizing would that be for us? We have our Friday night starter going for the national championship."

Thanks to Jungmann's dominating performance, the Longhorns will be playing for the national championship, too.

Texas will try to become the third national champion in four seasons to rally from an 0-1 deficit in the championship series. Oregon State won two games in a row after losing the first game to North Carolina in 2006, and Fresno State accomplished the same feat against Georgia last year.

"It couldn't get any better than this for all the people involved," Garrido said. "It's pretty cool."

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

ALSO SEE