'Cruel' Summer: N.C. State Ousts Texas

Baseball is "cruel". That was Texas coach Augie Garrido's assessment after his national No. 3 seed Longhorns were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in their own backyard Sunday. North Carolina State stunned the Big 12 champs, 6-3, when the Wolfpack's No. 9 hitter gave them the lead for good with a two-RBI double in the top of the eighth.

What made it even more "cruel" was that Texas had just stormed back to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh. Crueler still, Jonathan Diaz' clutch hit came after he worked himself out of 1-2 count and then extended his bat just far enough to poke a Randy Boone fastball over the head of SS Chaise Fuller. Heck, he didn't even swing but it was the final blow to Texas' rollercoaster season. The Horns saw their 41-21 year end early -- two weeks early.

"You've got a clubhouse full of Longhorns who are very emotional," Garrido said during the somber aftermath. "We're experiencing the pain of the other side today. We haven't had much of that during this decade. This is a stunning, shocking, disappointing turn of events that's broken a lot of young men's hearts."

The loss marked the first time Texas failed to advance out of its own Regional since 1994 and snapped a streak of four straight College World Series appearances for the defending national champ.

RHP Adrian Alaniz shouldered the loss to finish the year at 7-4. He surrendered five runs on eight hits, walking three and fanning three, in seven innings against the best hitting team in the Austin Regional.

"I thought it was the best pitching performance of the year for Adrian," Garrido said. "He gave it everything he had. What else can you do? What else can you do?"

The Wolfpack collected 10 hits on the day to survive to face Stanford in the championship round. Randy Boone gave up two hits and one earned run during the decisive eighth inning which saw three Longhorn hurlers take the mound. DH Jon Still had the hot bat, swatting three hits and two RBI in his first four appearances.

"I give all the credit to those (N.C. State) guys," Alaniz said. "They're a great hitting club and they represented themselves well today. They've got good enough hitters to find the holes in the right places and they ran with it."

DH Hunter Harris collected two hits in three plate appearances but Longhorn bats fell silent, mustering five hits against RHP Gib Hobson, who went the distance to raise his record to 10-2. Part of the problem was that Texas "mis-hit" the ball, Garrido said, resulting in 13 fly-outs. Otherwise, Texas generally pounded the ball right at Wolfpack infielders.

"We hit the ball pretty damn hard today and it seems like everyone went right to somebody," Garrido said. "That's just baseball."

And that's all, folks. At least for the 2006 season which saw Texas open at No. 1 and with the opportunity to play every post-season game this side of Omaha at Disch-Falk Field.

"If you look around the lockerroom, you'll see a lot of sad faces," Alaniz said. "It's very disappointing. It's hard to deal with something like this."

For the second day in a row, the Horns grabbed the early lead in a losing effort. Texas put up a two-spot with two hits in the bottom of the first. Jordan Danks, back in right field for the fist time since fracturing his ankle on April 17, also held the leadoff spot for just the second time in his collegiate career. The freshman singled and scored during the opening frame. N.C. State responded in its next at-bat when DH John Still's towering solo-shot cleared the center field wall. (It was the first homer over the 'monster' since Drew Stubbs parked one in June, 2004.)

Hobson retired 10 Longhorns in a row before issuing a one-out walk to Preston Clark in the bottom of the fifth. But he worked out of a 3-0 jam when Chais Fuller hit into a double play.

The Wolfpack jumped to a 3-2 lead with two hits in the top of the sixth. Still drove in the tying run with an RBI-double deep into the gap in right-center field. Matt Camp's sacrifice fly to center scored Bates from third to give N.C. State its first lead of the game.

The Wolfpack put two on-board during their next at-bat, but Chais Fuller's diving stop of Brian Aragon's sharp chopper and force-out at second thwarted the N.C. State rally. The defensive play also roused the partisan crowd and awakened Longhorn bats in the bottom of the seventh. After Chance Wheeless flew-out to center, Carson Kainer doubled to left for just the third Texas hit of the contest. Harris then launched a fastball into right-center field for an RBI double to tie it at 3-3 at the end of seven.

But that was as good as it would get for the Horns.

The Wolfpack broke this one open in the top of the eighth with three runs on four hits. Alaniz had no answer for Still, who opened the eighth with a leadoff single. Ryan Pond followed with a bloop single to right and Alaniz was done. Joseph Krebs made his third appearance of the Regional with two on and none out. Drew Martin moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Boone then came on to face right-handed batter Caleb Mangum. The junior went down swinging on three pitches. That brought Diaz, N.C. State's weakest hitter (.270), to the plate and Diaz quickly fell behind with a 1-2 count. After working the count full, Diaz simply stuck out his bat and blooped a base-clearing double into shallow center.

"It's ironical that what settled the game was a nine-hole hitter battling his butt off to hit a 3-2 pitch," Garrido said.

Nearly all the air left the Disch as two runs crossed the plate. Matt Camp followed with a ground-rule double to plate the third run of the inning. Texas now trailed 6-3 and went in order during their final two at-bats.

"For every winner there has to be a loser," Garrido said. "This time it's us."

True. But cruel.

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