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Texas slugs past Georgia
By Will Kimmey
OMAHA--Huston Street saved every game of Texas' 2002 title run. That's not happening this year, because the Longhorns offense is scoring too many runs to give college baseball's best clutch performer any late-game opportunities.
Coach Augie Garrido actually had to force Street into the final two innings of Saturday night's 9-3 win against Georgia so his ace could get some work and become acclimated to the Rosenblatt Stadium mound.
It marked the fourth straight win against a Southeastern Conference team for the Longhorns, who improved to 2-0 in the bracket without really being pushed by Georgia or Arkansas. Texas improved to 57-13 and tied a Big 12 record for wins. The Bulldogs dropped to 44-22 and will face Arizona, which it beat 8-7 in the College World Series opener, on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
A session-record 25,480 fans (second all-time to Saturday's 26,530 fans for the Miami-Louisiana State game) watched the Longhorns run their record to 40-0 on the season when they score six or more runs. They scored five times in the first inning to gain firm command of the game. Third baseman David Maroul capped that outburst by turning an 11-pitch at-bat into a bases-clearing double.
"The five-run first inning gave us some momentum early on, especially being the visitor," Garrido said. "There were a lot of good at-bats, none moreso than David Maroul's."
Georgia starter Sean Ruthven labored through 55 pitches in the frame, and coach David Perno considered pulling him from the game. Ruthven stayed in and settled down after that inning, but Texas' damage was done on four hits and three walks.
"The first inning is probably when your better pitcher is most vulnerable," Perno said. "If you let a guy like Sean settle in, he gets better."
Ruthven allowed just two more hits and another run, but his early pitch count forced him from the game after four innings. Garrido also pulled his starter, Sam LeCure, after four, but it was because of how comfortable he was with his team's 6-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth. LeCure allowed a run on three hits and 74 pitches, yielding some innings to J. Brent Cox and Street, and also keeping his arm fresh for later in the postseason run.
"The pitching was a team effort," Garrido said. "Sam gave way after four, but he pitched at a high level."
LeCure now has allowed two runs in nearly 12 CWS innings over three appearances, including last season.
It didn't matter that Georgia quickly scored twice off Cox in the fifth, as Texas' offense countered with two more in the bottom of the frame. The Longhorns seemingly score at will now and have posted at least seven runs in every NCAA tournament game they've played.
"We've had confidence in our offense all year that we can put up eight or nine runs, and now everybody's getting a taste of that," LeCure said. "When you come to expect that, you let down, but knowing that's a possibility, that keeps you up. We are clicking on all cylinders right now."
The offense is coming from all over. The trio of Seth Johnston, Curtis Thigpen and Dooley Prince have totaled 10 runs, 10 RBIs and five extra-base hits in the first two games of the CWS. Thigpen delivered four hits in the opener, while Johnston and Prince did the same against Georgia. It marked Johnston's first career four-hit game, and he added two RBIs and two doubles. Maroul added two doubles and a game-high three RBIs.
"All year up and down the lineup, we've had different guys step up," Johnston said. "It's just now that four, five and six guys are stepping up (at once). Drew Stubbs has stepped up, Curtis has come through all year and Dooley has been on fire in the postseason."
That's normally the mode Street slips into this time of year. By the way, the CWS career saves leader allowed just one hit and struck out three in his two innings of work and seems poised to add to that total.
If only Texas plays a close enough game to need him.