CWS Game Four: Texas 7, Southern Mississippi 6

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Southern Miss had a 5-4 lead in the eighth, and Texas had one on and one out when Corky Palmer went to closer Collin Cargill. When the submarining redshirt sophomore couldn’t get anyone out—he gave up a double and two walks—USM had to go deeper into its bullpen. The rest of the way, Texas hitters made four outs, walked four times and scored the game-winning run in the ninth.

Russell Moldenhauer hadn’t delivered much on his promise since arriving on campus as an unsigned third-round pick, but he did Sunday. He homered to give Texas a 3-2 lead in the sixth, then hit a double to key a two-run eighth. Texas had only one other extra-base hit.

Might Have Missed:
The catcher’s interference on Texas’ Cameron Rupp was the first since Greg Schulte of Michigan reached against Mississippi State catcher Terry Loe on May 30, 1981. The batter was Brian Dozier, the senior shortstop who missed the last two months with a broken clavicle. He’s back for pinch-hit duty here in Omaha.

OMAHA—Texas has played some unique games this NCAA postseason. The Longhorns had a 25-inning victory against Boston College you may have heard of, and then a walk-off grand slam to beat Army in the regional final.

But Sunday night’s game with Southern Mississippi might be as unique as any. Texas won a Walk-A-Thon, beating Southern Mississippi 7-6 in a game with plenty of twists and turns that deserved a better finish.

Texas squandered a 4-2 lead when Austin Wood again faltered—his second unsuccessful attempt to close a game since his heroic 169-pitch outing in the 25-inning game. But Southern Mississippi’s bullpen couldn’t hold a lead of its own, coughing up a 5-4 lead and then giving up a run in the ninth.

The Longhorns didn’t maul USM’s bullpen. They just waited out pitchers Collin Cargill, Josh Fields and Jonathan Johnston, who combined to walk six of the last 11 Texas batters. Brandon Loy drew two bases-loaded walks in those two innings, including the walk-off walk in the ninth off Johnston.

“We just didn’t throw strikes at the end of the game,” Golden Eagles coach Corky Palmer said. “It’s a tough way to lose. I’d just as soon somebody hit a grand slam.

“Not to take anything away from our guys. I thought we didn’t show any nerves. We just really didn’t throw strikes at the end. We didn’t throw strikes all night.”

Texas coach Augie Garrido acknowledged that he even instructed Loy that he would not swing in the ninth until he had two strikes, because of the wildness of Southern Miss’ relievers.

“Baseball’s a cruel game,” Garrido said. “For that one position to break down, it misrepresents the spirit of the team, the way it’s been coached, the effort of the team. Being in this environment for the first time created some nerves, that turned into some fear that turned into the demise of an otherwise very courageous team.”

USM starter Todd McInnis walked just three in his 6 2/3 innings, but Texas drew nine walks on the night. Texas also had some big hits, with a two-run double in the first by right fielder Kevin Keyes and two hits by Russell Moldenhauer, which prompted Garrido to call it his best night of the season.

An unsigned third-round pick in 2006, Moldenhauer has struggled with a left knee injury incurred last year in the regional. He hasn’t recovered sufficiently to regain a full-time job, instead becoming a part-time DH. He wasn’t drafted at all this season, but got some redemption on this night. He broke a 2-2 tie with a solo homer in the sixth, his first home run of the season (he’d hit six as a freshman in 2007).

“I believe I’ve hit the ball well all year,” Moldenhauer said. “Obviously my numbers don’t show it but Coach Garrido believes in me. He’s kept sticking with me and I’m glad I could help him out tonight and help the team. I’m just glad it could come in the College World Series.

“It definitely built up my confidence a lot. I’ve been seeing the ball well all year but haven’t found that grooved swing I had in high school and last year. I just felt real comfortable (after the home run).”

Texas also has to feel comfortable with sophomore righthander Cole Green, who gave up just three runs in seven-plus innings. Less reassuring is Wood’s continuing struggles, as he gave up two hits and walked two while getting four outs and giving up three runs. Southern Miss staged a dramatic rally in the eighth off Wood, turning a double, infield hit, two walks, a wild pitch and a catcher’s interference—the first in CWS play since 1981—into a go-ahead rally.

But the Southern Miss bullpen couldn’t hold it. Not this game, not this time. Texas walked to victory, and will face Arizona State on Tuesday night with a chance to go to 2-0 in the bracket. Southern Miss plays North Carolina in an elimination game Tuesday afternoon. The Sun Devils and Golden Eagles will be the home teams.