HOUSTON—Augie Garrido couldn't conceal his jubilation Friday night, and he didn't try to. The Texas coach had just watched his team pull out a thrilling 2-1 win to snap a four-game losing streak to rival Rice, and he seemed downright giddy as he held court in front of a handful of reporters along the first-base line at Minute Maid Park.
"It's an exciting win because it gives confidence to the players," Garrido said. "With these really tight games, they understand the importance of details. And when you lose those games it can motivate you too, because it was played in a championship environment. It was played like a championship game, and most of the games played at this time of year are not played at that level . . . Both teams had to grind it out. They both had to fight hard, and they both did. We just found a way to win this one, and that doesn't always happen. I am excited about it. It's good, at 71, to be excited."
For seven innings, the story of this game was Texas sophomore righthander Taylor Jungmann. He was utterly dominant against Rice's talented lineup, racking up eight strikeouts over seven shutout frames while allowing just two hits and two walks. He held the velocity on his 91-94 mph fastball deep into his outing and mixed in a devastating 79-82 power slurve and an 84-86 mph "screw-change", as he calls it.
"You had to go at them, but you also had to hit spots," Jungmann said of his approach against the Owls. "I was just hitting lots of spots today. I was hitting more spots than I have the last couple weekends, so I thought I did well in that sense."
"Jungmann is a very fine pitcher—I was amazed at how many good pitches he threw when he was behind in the count," Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "He didn't really give in. He was able to hit corners when he was behind, and that makes it tough, because you're sitting on a pitch and you don't get one to hit. He's really good."
But Jungmann seemed to tire in the eighth inning, hanging a breaking ball to Craig Manuel for a single to lead off the frame. After a sacrifice bunt, pinch-hitter Abe Gonzalez tied the score at 1-1 on an RBI single to left field, but that's when Texas' defense saved the day.
Gonzalez dug for second as the ball found the left-field corner, but Kyle Lusson made a perfect throw to gun him down. Chance Ruffin relieved Jungmann after that, and Michael Ratterree greeted him with a two-out double off the top of the left-field wall. The next hitter, Chad Mozingo appeared to give Rice the lead, hitting a deep drive to center field. But center fielder Connor Rowe read it perfectly, then climbed the hill in center field and dove behind him and to his right for a game-saving catch.
"I was very thankful, and maybe forever grateful," Garrido said of Rowe's catch. "This is the details of the game: He literally practiced that—because we had two sessions on defense—he practiced going up that hill when we had our workout here. So that's the kind of details that when you get players thinking about unlimited possibilities, and they recognize what they can do to be prepared, then you can move forward."
Rice sophomore lefty Taylor Wall doesn't have nearly the stuff Jungmann has—he worked in the 82-85 mph range with his fastball—but he turned in nearly as good of a performance. Wall's biting changeup stymied the Longhorns for 7 1/3 innings, as he racked up eight strikeouts of his own while allowing just two runs on five hits and three walks.
"He knows what to do; he's a good lefthander," Graham said of Wall. "The way he pitched tonight, he should keep us in every game he pitches, and you know, we're not going to face a Jungmann in every game he pitches. It's just tough. It hinges on one swing in a game like that."
In this case, the one swing came from Texas shortstop Brandon Loy. After Wall issued a one-out walk to Tant Shepherd in the eighth, Loy jumped on a Wall fastball over the middle of the plate, delivering an RBI double to left-center that put Texas back on top for good.
Ruffin iced it, striking out the side in the ninth in order.
"We hadn't beaten Rice in a while, and it was just kind of our turn," Garrido said. "But what made it happen was Taylor Jungmann and Chance Ruffin and a great defensive effort and timely hitting."
That pretty much sums it up. No wonder Garrido was excited.
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