Commentary

Jungmann punches UT's Omaha ticket

Freshman pitcher powers Longhorns past TCU and into College World Series

Originally Published: June 8, 2009
By Tim Griffin | ESPN.com

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas freshman pitcher Taylor Jungmann couldn't think of a place where he would have rather been.

The Longhorns' season precariously hung in the balance, and many young pitchers wouldn't have wanted the pressure of starting a game that would decide a trip to the College World Series.

Taylor Jungmann
AP Photo/Chris CarsonFreshman Taylor Jungmann pitched six scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out five, as Texas beat TCU 5-2 to advance to the College World Series.

But not Jungmann, whose supreme confidence belied his lack of experience. He told reporters the day before the game he was ready for the responsibility and proved it from his first pitch on Monday night.

"There was no fear at all," the right-hander said. "You have to go out with confidence. If you don't have confidence, you won't have any success."

Jungmann masterfully fired six scoreless innings to help pace Texas to a 5-2 victory over TCU, winning the best-of-three Austin Super Regional and sending the Longhorns to a record 33rd College World Series appearance.

"I just went at it like it was any other game," Jungmann said. "It was just like it was a regular-season Big 12 game. Nothing more, nothing less."

That confidence was bolstered after a sputtering Texas offense came through early, scoring three runs in a first-inning rally keyed by a triple by Brandon Belt and a homer by Kevin Keyes.

Pitching with a lead only made Jungmann that much tougher. His nasty fastball and sweeping curve limited the Horned Frogs to two hits in his outing, effectively handcuffing a team that had produced five homers in the two previous games of the super regional.

"I came in with the strategy I wasn't going to let those guys beat us," Jungmann said, referring to the middle of the Horned Frogs' batting order. "If I got the guys in front of them out, I could pitch to them any way I wanted to."

The big pitching effort was boosted by an outstanding defensive game by the Longhorns. On top of several web gems in the outfield, the Longhorns turned double plays in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings to snuff out Horned Frog rallies.

"This is the kind of game that this team is about," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "A spirited, courageous offensive performance. We certainly didn't tear down the other team's pitching staff. But it is befitting of what we've done."

Monday's start was a huge turnaround from Jungmann's most recent appearance. He had been rocked for a season-worst six earned runs in a 3 1/3-inning start against Army in the final game of the Austin Regional on May 31.

Those struggles sent Jungmann back to the drawing board, and he worked hard on his curveball during the past several days. The result was a masterful 95-pitch performance that included five strikeouts and only one walk.

"I worked on that all week with [Texas pitching coach] Skip [Johnson]," Jungmann said. "And I definitely had it working tonight. It helped me get ahead, starting guys off with the curve balls, and I was able to throw it for strikes."

The lanky 6-foot-6 Jungmann was effectively wild; he dusted several TCU players to keep them off-balance at the plate and went to a full count against seven batters. Perhaps his biggest pitch came in the first inning, when he struck out leading TCU slugger Matt Vern on a nasty 2-2 slider.

That started a run of 10 consecutive batters retired by Jungmann. By the time Bryan Holaday broke up his no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the fifth inning, the Longhorns had a comfortable 5-0 lead.

"For a freshman to do the things that he did was pretty impressive," TCU third baseman Matt Carpenter said. "To be able to handle that situation with a chance to go to Omaha in an elimination game and to get that kind of performance out of a freshman is unbelievable."

[+] EnlargeTexas
AP Photo/Chris CarsonThe Longhorns are headed to a record 33rd appearance in the College World Series.

Jungmann made Baseball America's High School All-America first team in 2008. He told professional scouts early that he wanted to attend Texas and had no real interest in playing professional baseball right out of high school. Even after those declarations, he still was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 24th round of the 2008 draft.

After playing his senior season in nearby Georgetown, he couldn't resist the call of pitching for the Longhorns 40 miles down the road from his home.

"I think the experiences of being a starter at the University of Texas prepares you for that," Johnson said. "He was really good when he got here and has gotten better ever since. This place will make you like that."

The Longhorns qualified for their sixth College World Series appearance in the last 10 seasons under Garrido. But the veteran coach, who will be making his 13th trip to Omaha, said that his memories of his current team will be determined after they get to Rosenblatt Stadium.

The No. 1-seeded Longhorns will start their run Sunday night against surprising Southern Miss, which is in its first CWS (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN360.com).

"Our season starts now. Now is the beginning of what we are about," Garrido said. "It's the same every time you get the opportunity. The race is on."

That attitude might explain why the Longhorns had only a mild celebration on the field, with no dogpiles, after the victory. Even though none of the players has played in Omaha before, they are well aware of the school's tradition as they bid for Texas' seventh national championship.

"This is amazing, but we're still not done," reliever Austin Wood said. "We still have more baseball to play and that's a great feeling."

Tim Griffin covers college sports for ESPN.com. You may contact him at espntimgriff@yahoo.com.

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