OMAHA, Neb. — A workmanlike victory over Louisville has Texas coach Augie Garrido confident his Longhorns are in the right frame of mind to make a deep run at the College World Series.
Parker French and Travis Duke limited the Cardinals to four hits, and Texas manufactured runs in three straight innings to win 4-1 in an elimination game Monday.
The performance eased Garrido’s concern about his team’s state of mind after a 3-1 loss to UC Irvine in Saturday’s CWS opener.
“The celebration has gone on from the time they got their invitation and punched their tickets to Omaha,” Garrido said. “Once you get here, the celebration continues. It’s easy to buy into that, and it’s hard to refocus and get competitive. I didn’t tell them until now, but it is hard to flip that switch.”
The Longhorns (44-20) ended a four-game CWS losing streak dating to 2009 and will play UC Irvine in another elimination game Wednesday. Louisville (50-17) went 0-2 in the CWS for the second straight year and is 1-6 in three appearances in Omaha.
French (7-5) held the Cardinals to four singles in 7 1-3 innings, and Duke retired their last five batters for his first save.
It was French’s second straight strong outing. The sinker-baller pitched six shutout innings in a win over Houston in super regionals and has allowed three runs in 20 innings in three NCAA tournament appearances. The Longhorns’ pitching staff has a 1.35 ERA over its last eight games.
“We have a pitching staff that can stand up to the number of games we need to win to win the national championship,” Garrido said.
Louisville sophomore starter Anthony Kidston (9-1) lost for the first time in 15 decisions as a collegian and the Cardinals committed four errors, just as they did in their elimination-game loss to Oregon State last year.
“It’s the eight best and eight hottest teams in Omaha, so when you don’t play clean, it gets magnified out here,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said.
The Longhorns played an error-free game and got big defensive plays from shortstop C.J. Hinojosa and left fielder Ben Johnson.
“When I step out there every game, I think this is the best defensive team in the country. I can say that with confidence, up the middle and everywhere,” French said. “They make those plays, it makes me more of a strike-throwing machine, because they’re going to be aggressive and let me keep my pitch count down.”
Texas opened the scoring on Johnson’s sacrifice fly after Zane Guritz doubled leading off the third inning. The Longhorns added a run in the fourth on Kacy Clemens’ RBI groundout and another in the fifth when Mark Payton came home on second baseman Zach Lucas’ throwing error.
Louisville had won 12 of 13 games this season, and 17 of 19 the last two seasons, in games started by Kidston.
“We wanted to get on him early, and we did a good job of that those three innings we scored runs,” Johnson said. “We knew they have a pretty good bullpen, so we wanted a lead going to the last innings.”
McDonnell gathered his players after Texas went up 3-0 and challenged them. His talk didn’t work.
“We probably chased some pitches we shouldn’t have in big situations with runners on,” Cole Spurgeon said. “We probably didn’t do a great job of making them work for everything. We made it easy on them for a few innings.”
Louisville pulled to 3-1 in the eighth on Sturgeon’s groundout. But the Longhorns scored an unearned run in the top of the ninth to make it a three-run game again.
“We had a two-inning lapse where we made it a little too easy on them,” McDonnell said. “They got the momentum, and we let them roll with it.”
VANDERBILT 6, UC Irvine 4
OMAHA, Neb. — UC Irvine came back once to take the lead against Vanderbilt. The Anteaters couldn’t do it a second time, not with Walker Buehler on the mound.
Buehler pitched 5 1-3 innings of no-hit relief, with Irvine managing to get only two balls out of the infield against him in a 6-4 loss at the College World Series on Monday night.
Irvine had scored four times against first-round draft pick Tyler Beede to erase an early two-run deficit. But John Norwood’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth inning put Vanderbilt up 5-4, and his two-strike, two-out single in the seventh made it a two-run game.
“For us to go back down one and then two runs, it seemed like it was going to take a lot,” Irvine’s Kris Paulino said. “Buehler was starting to throw well, and you felt he was on a roll.”
Irvine (41-24), one of the last four teams selected for the 64-team NCAA tournament, now must win three games to reach next week’s best-of-three finals. Vanderbilt is within one win of the championship round. The Commodores (48-19) will play in a bracket final Friday against the winner of a Wednesday elimination game between UC Irvine (41-24) and Texas.
UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie said watching Buehler work “felt like a root canal.”
“The score wasn’t indicative of the difference between the two teams tonight,” Gillespie said. “So we’ll show up on Wednesday and try to give a better account of ourselves.”
Buehler (12-2) retired the first nine batters he faced and finished with seven strikeouts in only his third relief appearance of the year.
Buehler said pitching coach Scott Brown told him before the game to be ready.
“You expect your guys to go out and perform as well as they can. I was happy I got to pick him up,” Buehler said.
Elliot Surrey (8-5) took the loss, allowing five runs in 4 1-3 innings in just his third start.
Beede, the 14th overall draft pick by the San Francisco Giants, continued to struggle with his command. He failed to make it past the fifth inning for a second straight start and sixth time in 18 outings.
The Anteaters had no answer for Buehler, though. The 6-foot-1, 160-pounder mixed a biting curveball with a fastball in the mid 90s. It was an impressive bounce-back from his last outing, a super-regional start against Stanford that lasted three innings.
“The game turned around when Walker came in,” Vandy coach Tim Corbin said. “He pounded the strike zone from the minute he got in there to the minute he finished.”
Buehler’s biggest challenge came in the eighth when he issued a walk and hit a batter with two out. Brown went to the mound for a visit, and Buehler then ended the threat by striking out Adam Alcantara on three pitches.
“Every time he comes out he tries to make me laugh and smile and relax me,” Buehler said. “It obviously worked out. I wouldn’t say the wheels were spinning. But you’re in the College World Series, and you walk a kid and hit a kid, it’s nice to have a guy come out and settle you down a bit.”
Surrey came into the game having given up no runs in eight innings and two in his previous 15. But Vanderbilt turned three singles and a walk into a 2-0 lead in the first.
Irvine batted around while taking a 4-2 lead in the second. The Anteaters tied it when Grant Palmer scored from third on Alcantara’s bunt, and Taylor Sparks gave them the lead with a two-run single for his fourth hit in his first six CWS at-bats.
The Commodores regained the lead in the fifth, tying it when Bryan Reynolds scored from second after Zander Wiel hit a ball over Alcantara in left field for a double. After Evan Brock relieved with the bases loaded, Norwood’s sacrifice fly to left put Vanderbilt back in front.
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