It was the bottom of the eighth inning and Kyle Thebeau had just allowed two runners to reach base. He stood on the mound, waiting for the hook from Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress. Childress picked up the phone and called the bullpen to see if Kyle Nicholson was ready. Every bit of Thebeau's body language suggested that he was done. His tank was empty.
The entire stadium was on its feet, chanting "Thebeau! Thebeau! Thebeau!" Childress hung up the bullpen phone and didn't even look at Thebeau. He just took his seat and prepared himself to watch one of the greatest performances in Olsen Field history.
That's when it happened.
The sophomore pitcher etched his name in the Olsen Field history books by striking out the last five batters of the night to cap off a complete game (that should have been a shutout) with a career-high 13 strikeouts. Thebeau had everything working on Monday night, hitting his spots with his fastball and throwing a curveball that had Louisiana-Lafayette hitters on their heels all night.
"I was trying to focus on the hitters, but I did hear them chanting my name, and I was in awe," Thebeau said. "I couldn't believe that was happening. I tried to ignore it and focus on the game, but that did pump me up a little bit."
After debating who should take the mound in Monday night's regional championship, Childress came away smelling like a rose.
"When [Thebeau] throws strikes, he's got probably the best stuff on the team," said A&M head coach Rob Childress. "When he throws strikes, he is outstanding. He had some good outings, some bad innings but he kept his head up the entire time and kept showing up for work every day."
The Aggies got things started early, scoring four runs in the top of the second off starter Buddy Glass and they never looked back.
Craig Stinson started the inning with his 12th home run of the year and Brian Ruggiano tripled with one out. Ben Feltner successfully sacrifice bunted Ruggiano home and Parker Dalton reached on a two-out error by third baseman Devery Van De Keere. After moving to second on a wild pitch, Dalton trotted home on a double by Dane Carter, who scored on a single up the middle by Kyle Colligan.
A leadoff double by regional MVP Blake Stouffer sent Glass to the showers in the third inning. Stouffer advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Stinson, but was thrown out at home trying to score on a ground ball to second baseman Xavier Alexander. A&M third base coach Matt Deggs was ejected after arguing the call at the plate and sent the already raucous crowd into a frenzy.
Stouffer continued his assault at the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. He went 10-for-19 (.526) this weekend with eight RBI, six runs scored and a home run.
After the game, Stouffer had a chance to reflect on where this Aggie squad has come since finishing last in the Big 12 just one year ago.
"Where we've come from last year to dog-pile (this year) is just an amazing feeling," he said. "We wanted to host a regional and win it, go to a super regional and then Omaha. This (win) was just another accomplishment along the way and shows the kind of team that we have. A team that doesn't quit and goes out there every day to compete."
The team will continue competing on Friday when they return to Reckling Park, where they've already beaten Rice once this year, and the sight of Justin Ruggiano's heroic grand slam in 2004 that catapulted A&M to its last NCAA Super Regional.
Tickets to the weekend series in Houston sold out within an hour of the Aggies' victory last night and television information has not yet been posted. The first game will be on Friday, but times have also not been announced.
College Station Regional All-Tournament Team
C: Craig Stinson, A&M
1B: Blake Stouffer, A&M
2B: Devan Bourque, UL
3B: Stephen Crawford, LU
SS: Cory Rupert, OSU
OF: Kyle Colligan, A&M
OF: Jacob Howell, OSU
OF: Nolan Gisclair, UL
DH: Matt Angle, OSU
P: Matt Pilgreen, UL
P: Kyle Thebeau, A&M
MVP: Blake Stouffer, A&M
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