OMAHA—After his complete-game one-hitter against Baylor in the Big 12 Conference tournament, Taylor Jungmann was 13-0, 0.95. He was the very essence of consistency and dominance over a full season. He allowed zero earned runs in eight of his 16 starts to that point—going at least eight innings in seven of those eight outings. He did not allow more than three earned runs in a start all year.
Then the NCAA tournament started. Jungmann—a first-team All-American for Texas this spring and the 12th overall pick in the draft this June—has been perhaps college baseball's premier big-game pitcher since he was a freshman, when he shut down Louisiana State in the College World Series Finals. But in three starts in the 2011 postseason, he is 0-3, 6.23.
Jungmann allowed seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to Kent State in the regionals. He was better last week in super regionals, giving up just three runs (one earned) in 7 1/3, but he still lost against Arizona State. And in Texas' CWS opener on Saturday, he was downright erratic, giving up five runs (four earned) on three hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings, as the Gators erased an early 3-0 lead en route to a 8-4 win.
The moment it became apparent that Jungmann wasn't truly Jungmann on Saturday was in the third inning. The Longhorns put three runs on the board in the top of the frame—and Jungmann proceeded to walk Florida's No. 8 and No. 9 hitters to start the bottom of the frame. The Gators rallied for two runs in the frame to reverse the game's momentum.
"I think probably in the third inning I got out of rhythm," Jungmann said. "Once I got out of rhythm, I made some bad pitches. I felt like I set them up to have some opportunities to score runs. I walked more guys than I usually do. And, I mean, they took advantage of it."
Jungmann has now lost as many games in the 2011 NCAA tournament as he did in each of his first two college seasons. It's been a stunning reversal for one of the nation's very best pitchers.
It's natural, of course, for pitchers to wear down late in the season—even those as physical and durable as Jungmann. But he insisted nothing has felt different physically down the stretch.
"I think mechanically some things have been going wrong lately," he said. "We've worked on it in the bullpen—it's fine in the bullpen. I just didn't bring it to the field today. I mean, you fall behind in counts like I did today and a good team is going to take advantage of it. They're a good team, and they obviously took advantage."
Jungmann has never been known for his quotability, but he was in no mood to delve further into his struggles Saturday. When pressed to elaborate on the mechanical things he's been working on, he declined to answer.
Whatever the cause of Jungmann's suddenly shaky command, it's clear that Jungmann has not been Jungmann lately. Texas now needs to make a deep run through the losers' bracket to give him a chance to make another start, and write a better ending for one of the most storied pitching careers in Texas' rich history.
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