Green, Texas in postseason form
AUSTIN, Texas – It’s almost unheard of to question a program like Texas entering the postseason.
The Longhorns are one of the most storied teams in college baseball history and have won six national titles. So it’s safe to say they play the entire regular season for just one thing – the NCAA postseason and the right to be one of the final eight teams in the College World Series.
But before this weekend’s Austin Regional, there were plenty of observers who wondered if the Longhorns were losing their fire or if junior right-handed pitcher Cole Green was simply breaking down from what has been a rigorous season.
The doubt, of course, was created at the Big 12 tournament last week. The Longhorns had already wrapped up a national seed entering the tournament. But to say the least, they played an uninspired brand of baseball and went 0-3.
Most disappointing was Green’s uncharacteristic start against Texas A&M, where he allowed seven runs in just four innings of work. In previous starts against Missouri and Louisiana Tech, Green had allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings and four runs in just 2 2/3 innings, respectively.
Was Green officially in a funk? Were the Longhorns losing their magic?
Those questions, as legitimate as they were, have been answered through two games in the Austin Regional against Rider and Louisiana-Lafayette.
In the regional opener against the Broncs, the Longhorns used a plethora of offense and a solid performance from starting pitcher Brandon Workman to take home an 11-0 victory.
As a result of Louisiana-Lafayette’s upset win over Rice in opening-round action, the Longhorns had the chore of facing the hard-nosed Ragin’ Cajuns in Saturday’s winner’s bracket bout.
In arguably the most important game of the regional, the Longhorns looked to Green for a big-time start.
The Green we saw against the Aggies, Tigers and Bulldogs the last three weeks was nowhere to be found. Instead, it was the Green we became accustomed to so often the first three and a half months of the season.
“I knew what I did wrong against the teams that hit me hard,” Green said. “I left the ball up, and a guy like me can’t do things like that. I have to be down in the zone 90 percent of the time.”
“I had a presence tonight. It was special,” he said. “There’s a different focus [in a regional].”
Green, who earned his 11th win of the season against the Ragin’ Cajuns, struck out five batters and allowed just two runs on six innings.
As with Green, the rest of the Longhorns had little trouble rising to the occasion. At the plate, Kevin Keyes and Kevin Lusson each had important homers to help the offensive cause.
The most telling moment for this team, though, was in the eighth inning when Louisiana-Lafayette was threatening to blow the game wide open and perhaps take the lead and total control of the Austin Regional.
The Longhorns called on veteran closer Chance Ruffin to put out the fire with a pair of runners on and no outs.
The trouble stopped.
Ruffin got the Longhorns out of the eighth inning with the lead and proceeded to strike out the Louisiana-Lafayette side in the ninth inning to preserve a 4-2 victory and earn his 14th save of the season.
After two games in the Austin Regional, last week’s crop of performances at the Big 12 tournament now seems like ancient history.
The Texas offense is getting the job done when it needs to, Green is back on track and Ruffin continues to do what he does best.
The Longhorns now are penciled into the regional title game. For most every question about the Texas baseball program in the postseason, there’s usually an answer.
Turns out this season is no exception.
“I think you see the real Longhorns in this environment because there is so much to play for,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said. “What you’re seeing right now is a team that, when it is focused, understands the importance of winning by how they perform together.”