"With the writers I talk to a lot, I call the game of baseball very cruel," head coach Augie Garrido said post-game. "And we've played this team five times and this is the first time we've been able to beat them and that's what I'm talking about. The balls they hit went to people and the balls we hit didn't. Of course the one Seth hit went to people but they were in the stands. But a lot of what happened happened over ground balls that found their way through the middle and their ground balls didn't and that's baseball. It was good timing for the ol' Longhorns for that to happen."
The best timing of all came in the top of the first, when Seth Johnston launched Baylor ace Mark McCormick's one-on, one-out, 2-1 offering four rows into the left center field bleachers to give the Horns a 2-zip advantage, and huge early momentum.
"I remember the first time we faced (McCormick), it was one of the best pitching performances I've seen from a pitcher, so basically what we said before the game was a guy that throws that hard, just let him supply the power because you don't have to swing real hard, all you've gotta do is hit the ball on the right spot on the bat and it's going to go places and we were able to do that," Johnston said.
The two runs off the senior shortstop's bat would be all Adrian Alaniz, with a two-inning assist to J. Brent Cox, would need to send the Bears to the loser's bracket.
Baylor threatened with two outs in the second with men on first and third, but Alaniz worked out of a jam, as he would do all evening, blowing a 1-2 pitch by Josh Ford for the final out of the inning to keep the Bears off the board early.
Baylor finally broke through in the bottom of the fourth, and it started with a two-out, check-swing infield single off the bat of Kevin Russo. Light-hitting Seth Fortenberry followed with his second hit of the evening, a single to right, that advanced Russo to third. Paul Witt's single to left got the Bears on the board. Michael Griffin gave Orangebloods in Omaha a scare when he gave an Alaniz offering a ride to left, but Carson Kainer settled under near the warning track to get out of the inning with just the one Baylor run across. It would be the Bears' final score.
"I thought eventually we were gonna chip away," Griffin said, "but we didn't get the timely hit today. (Alaniz) stayed composed and he did a great job, we didn't get the timely hit today."
Texas extended its lead in the top of the sixth. Will Crouch led off the frame with a single up the middle and advanced to first when the second baseman couldn't hang on for a force out on Kainer's bunt attempt. After Taylor Teagarden bunted back to the mound, forcing Crouch at third, David Maroul went down swinging, sending Robby Hudson to the plate with a two-out opportunity. Hudson hit a swinging chopper to the left side of the mound that McCormick fielded running toward the foul line, wheeled and threw wide of first, a two-base throwing error that brought both Kainer and Teagarden home. Texas led 4-1.
The Horns padded their lead in the top of the eighth when Hudson's single up the middle scored Teagarden, who lead off the frame with a shot up the middle of his own.
"It still takes the clutch hits and Robby had 'em all through the Super Regional and he had another one tonight and I think once you get those runners in scoring position you still have to get that clutch hit and that's what we've been doing in this run that we've had," Garrido said. "It's been different guys stepping up."
Hudson, Johnston, Chance Wheeless and Crouch all totaled two hits a piece in the Horns' 11-hit performance.
Alaniz stepped up for the third crucial start in a row, lasting seven innings to earn the win, giving up just the one fourth-inning run on seven hits, walking two and striking out three on 120 pitches. Cox took over for Alaniz to start the eighth and faced one over the minimum to close the book on Baylor.
McCormick went six for the Bears and suffered the loss, giving up four runs, two earned, on five hits. Texas touched reliever Abe Woody for a single run in his two innings of work.
"The margin of difference is a lot slimmer than it appears on the scoreboard," Garrido said.
Regardless, Baylor (44-23) faces an elimination game on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. vs. Oregon State. Texas (52-16) will take on national No. 1 seed Tulane, 3-1 winners over the Beavers in Saturday's early game, on Monday at 6 p.m. The winner of that game will be in the bracket championship round, needing one win in two games to advance to the national title series next weekend.
"When we saw the bracketing," Garrido said, "my reaction was, Oh great, we've got a team we can't beat to play first and then we've got the No. 1 seed if we do."
But beating the unbeatable is a mighty good start.