Baseball Regional: Horns One Step Closer to Omaha

<B>Taylor Teagarden</B> collected three hits, including a three-run homer in the first, to power the Texas offense in a 7-3 Regional championship game victory over Oral Roberts Sunday that advanced UT to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tourney. But the Regional Most Outstanding Player's most outstanding hit almost wasn't to be. <P><a href=>Photo Gallery</a>

With one run already across and two men still aboard with no one out in the bottom of the first, the Texas clean-up hitter said that he and head coach Augie Garrido talked about the options -- bunt or hit away -- and, with a one-one count, decided to bunt the runners up. ORU starter Conner Tinkler's 1-1 offering, though, went wild, advancing the runners to second and third, allowing Teagarden to swing away. And swing away he did, sending the next pitch over the left center field wall just to the right of the Disch-Falk scoreboard.

When Teagarden crossed home for a 4-1 UT lead, the Horns had scored all the runs they would ultimately need before Oral Roberts had recorded even one out in the game.

"Our team did a good job when we got punched in the nose the first half of the first inning," Garrido said. "We came back and landed some significant blows and we really got the momentum at that point."

Sam LeCure started for the Horns and, despite a leadoff walk in the first that came around to score, pitched brilliantly through seven to earn his eighth win (vs. three losses) of the season. From the second into the seventh, the sophomore rightie retired 15 straight Golden Eagle batters. LeCure pitched 7-1/3 innings, giving up five hits, three walks and three earned runs while striking out seven.

"I thought Sam pitched the best game of his career in this game," the Texas head man said. "I say that because the strike zone was a tough one. It was consistent from beginning to end and I think that Sam made the adjustments and that takes a lot of confidence in yourself and a lot of command and I was really proud of his ability and his mental toughness to make the adjustments he needed to make to get excellent hitters out."

Huston Street earned his second save of the Regional and 12th of the season by shutting down an ORU threat in the eighth and pitching a scoreless ninth.

"We've taken the first step of a three-phase journey," Garrido said post-game.

The second phase of that journey comes later this week when Texas (53-13) will host Vanderbilt, which upset No. 1 seed Virginia in the Charlottesville Regional, in a Super Regional best-of-three series Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday at the Disch. Oral Roberts finished its season 50-11.

Early in Sunday's Regional championship, it appeared that the Golden Eagles would give the Horns all they could handle when Matt VanDerBosch's single scored Ryan Welborn to give ORU the first inning advantage. But Texas answered and then some in its first at-bat. All-Tournament CF Drew Stubbs led off the home half of the first by smashing a triple to the right field gap. All-Tournament 2B Seth Johnston followed with a walk and All-Tournament 1B Curtis Thigpen, who also added a solo homer in the fifth, collected the first RBI of the game with a single to right that brought in Stubbs. Teagarden cleared the bases with his third homer of the tournament as the Horns took the lead for good at 4-1.

After issuing a one-out walk to Ricky Rivera in the second, LeCure retired the next 15 batters he faced before giving up a one-out jam shot to Josh Lex in the top of the seventh that dropped in between Johnston and SS Michael Hollimon. Lex, after moving up to second on a wild pitch, scored on Grant Plumley's single up the middle before the Horns' sophomore starter retired the next two batters to send the game to the bottom of the frame with UT up 6-2.

Texas got the run back in the home half of the seventh when Carson Kainer's sac fly scored Teagarden, who had collected his second double of the day with one out.

LeCure returned for the top of the eighth but got into trouble with one out, giving up a walk to pinch hitter Jeff Tuttle and back-to-back singles to Welborn and Brian Hanson, whose hit scored Tuttle. Buck Cody relieved LeCure and forced a fielder's choice groundout, setting up Street to close it out.

"That's the best pitching staff we've faced, by far," ORU head coach Rob Walton said. "As deep a pitching staff by five guys. Every single guy they run out there is an exact duplicate of the guy that just left the mound."

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