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Texas takes a different route to a similar result

By Will Kimmey
June 23, 2004

OMAHA--Things didn't go the way they normally do for Texas against Georgia. The Longhorns didn't play small ball with bunts or stolen bases. Their starting pitcher didn't make it out of the third inning. And Huston Street blew a save.

Yet Texas still won 7-6 to advance to the best-of-three championship round of the College World Series. The Longhorns blasted a season-high four home runs, received 3 1/3 innings of stellar relief from J. Brent Cox (his second-longest outing of the year) and Street buckled down to earn the win. Though Texas (58-13) did things differently than it had all year, it still reached the same result to cap off its 27th come-from-behind win this season.

"Championships are won by the unexpected," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "And it always happens that thing that's the least likely to change the dynamics of the game happen. That was an example today. We did what it took today.

"There's a lot of experience (on this team) in coming from behind. It wasn't our first rodeo."

It seemed like the same old rodeo in the seventh inning. Texas fought back from a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Then Garrido went for the kill, bringing in Street to get the final nine outs. But Georgia bucked back by greeting Street with a single, a sacrifice bunt and another single to pull back into a tie.

"After I gave up that run, I had all the confidence in the world my teammates would pick me up," Street said.

Texas did so against Georgia closer Will Startup, who worked three innings Tuesday for his second save of the Series. Startup said he envisioned a head-to-head battle against Street the night before, and got his wish--just not the result he wanted. He said he didn't feel sharp in the first of the two innings he worked, and it showed as he allowed doubles to two of the first three batters he faced-- Dooley Prince and Carson Kainer--to give back the lead at 7-6.

Kainer might have been nervous going into the at-bat, possibly aware of the gravity of the situation and the fact that he entered it 0-for-the CWS. Garrido pulled the freshman aside for a quick but calming conference.

"It was my first hit, and that was a good place to get it," he said. "Coach told me to go back to that time in my backyard with my dad, just having fun.

"I got a pitch he left out over the plate and hooked it. That talk really helped me (settle down)."

That wasn't the first time in the game Texas had answered a Georgia rally. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third inning by executing the small-ball game Texas likes to utilize. A bunt, three stolen bases, a throwing error and four weak singles that looked to be placed with pool cues helped chase Longhorns starter Justin Simmons, who allowed five runs--one earned--in lasting just 2 2/3 innings.

The early five-run strike matched what Texas had done to Georgia in a 9-3 loss in their first CWS meeting on Sunday.

"It was drawn up perfectly--the start," Georgia coach David Perno said. "We wanted to start Johnny Dobbs because he's a strike-thrower and we did what we wanted against Simmons (taking away the outside corner by crowding the plate)."

Dobbs cruised through the Texas lineup in the first two innings, but the reliever showed why he normally doesn't get two trips through a batting order in the third. Michael Hollimon lead off with a homer, then Taylor Teagarden hit an outside fastball the opposite way that just cleared the right-field wall for a two-run shot.

"All year we never felt out of a game," Johnston said. "We're hitting the ball so well lately, once we stopped the bleeding we felt the bullpen would be right there like they always do."

Cox proved an unheralded hero by not allowing a run on four hits in his longest outing since Feb. 28. Then Johnston hit a solo shot in the fifth inning, and David Maroul tied the game at 5 with a bases-empty home run in the sixth as all of the Longhorns' runs to that point came via the long ball.

"I dont think that we were trying to hit home runs, just trying to put the bat on the ball," Hollimon said. "When you stay within yourself, good things happen."

Hollimon followed Maroul's home run with a walk, then came around to score on a single by Johnston, who tied Teagarden with a team-high two RBIs.

"When they put that five runs on us, of course we were down a little bit," Kainer said. "But being in the third inning, we had seven more innings to comeback. It was huge how we counter-punched. Our bullpen kept holding them off, and our offense just kept pounding away and pounding away. We finally got that lead and it felt good."

The win put Texas in a great position heading into the CWS championship series against either Cal State Fullerton or South Carolina, which must beat Fullerton twice to win the bracket. The Longhorns will have two days of rest before then. It avoided a second game against Georgia by making good on a gamble by Garrido.

"Our risk was substantial," Garrido said. "Our insurance was we had another game if we lost. We didn't play that way. We played this game to win. Our offensive players had played well enough I thought they could battle back.

"Still it was a huge risk. If we lose, we start J.P. Howell tomorrow and lose him for the championship series. We also burned J. Brent Cox and Huston Street for tomorrow."

Instead there will be no tomorrow for a Georgia (45-23), a team that Garrido praised for its resilience and great play. It was only fitting given that the Bulldogs had nearly pulled off the upset by doing to the Longhorns what they normally do so well.

"Both games they had a little bit more than we did," Perno said. "That's no knock on our guys, just everything we did they had an answer for."

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