On the eve of Monday’s Texas-Louisville elimination game, UT coach Augie Garrido called the Longhorns together for a workout.
A final College World Series practice, perhaps, since the ’Horns had squandered a late lead and lost to UC Irvine the day before?
No. It was supposed to be an off-day workout but Augie, 75 years wise, saw it more as an absolution.
“Everyone has to be sure there is forgiveness for the loss,” Garrido explained.
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The Longhorns aren’t dead yet, he was trying to say, and Augie wanted to make sure that his players knew that as much as anyone.
“We weren’t trying to fix anything,” Garrido said, “because it wasn’t broken.”
Texas, indeed, can still pitch, and its fielders still know how to turn most of their pitchers’ mistakes into outs. And when Ben Johnson came up in the third inning and, as Garrido put it, “We had a miracle take place” — a sacrifice fly — Texas right-hander Parker French had a lead that he wasn’t about to relinquish.
The Longhorns’ 4-1 victory sent the Cardinals home and set up another survival showdown for UT on Wednesday night.
The Texas offense, fractured as it seemed to be against UC Irvine, responded Monday with a veritable barrage — six singles, a double and four Louisville errors. In today’s college baseball, singles can be golden and opponents’ errors feel like heavenly gifts.
Hence, Garrido’s wisecrack about the sacrifice fly. Texas doesn’t have the kind of balanced lineup that can afford lapses in execution like it had against UCI.
Six of the nine hitters that Texas put in its starting lineup Monday arrived in Omaha with batting averages of .278 and below, including son-of-Rocket Kacy Clemens, now at .215.
Yet, Garrido is convinced that Longhorns have the pitching to remain in the CWS hunt. Parker certainly did his part Monday to reinforce that.
“I think our pitching certainly gives us a chance,” Garrido said. “The other thing is that in this format, it’s not nearly as difficult to come back and win the whole tournament after losing the first game.
“It is challenging, and you’re one game down. But before, you could be two or three games down. And so the short answer is yes — I think we have a pitching staff that can stand up to the number of games that we have to win to win the national championship.”
After Zane Gurwitz’s double and Johnson’s sacrifice fly, Texas scored three more times Monday — all with the help of Louisville fielding misplays. But make no mistake — the Longhorns swung the bats far better against the Cardinals’ Anthony Kidston than they did in their opener.
Four runs? At roomy TD Ameritrade Park, four is the new 10.
It was more than enough for a strike-thrower such as French. In seven-plus innings, he allowed only four singles and allowed only one Louisville runner to get as far as third base.
The guys behind French, particularly shortstop A.J. Hinojosa, definitely helped.
“When I step out there, every game, this is probably the best defense in the country,” French said. “So I come in confident every game. When they start making those plays, it makes me a strike-throwing machine.
“Why not keep the pitch count down and save the bullpen? We’re a team here, not just one guy.”
That, too, was what Garrido was trying to drive home in his forgive-thyself Sunday practice. By the end of the workout, nobody was hanging their heads and Garrido even let the right-handed batters bat lefty, and vice-versa.
The 4-1 victory that followed Monday may not have been a complete UT absolution. But deep and talented pitching, Augie Garrido will tell you, has a way of resolving a lot of opening-day sins.