OMAHA, Neb. – Texas might have destiny on its side after all.
The Longhorns arrived at a sweltering Rosenblatt Stadium on Tuesday afternoon with their backs against the wall after losing Monday's opening game of the best-of-three College World Series Championship Series to LSU.
And fate didn't appear on their side as they entered the clubhouse. With temperatures soaring to 112 degrees, both teams had serious concerns about their pitching, but Texas stood on the brink of elimination.
All the extreme heat did was turn the pressure up even more on freshman pitcher Taylor Jungmann, who wilted in a relief appearance in Game 1 – failing to record an out.
But everything changed before Jungmann got to the mound.
As game time approached, storms crept into Omaha. The coaches didn't even know inclement weather was possible. But the storm resulted in a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay and dropped the temperature to 82 degrees.
The rain also revived Texas, as Jungmann held LSU in check for nine innings to carry the Longhorns to a 5-1 victory and into a game Wednesday to decide the national champion.
"The heavy rain essentially took the humidity and temperatures out of it, and it really helped Taylor out in a big way," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "He was brilliant in his performance and his teammates really helped him out. But the weather really helped him finish the game."
Jungmann finished the night with nine strikeouts and allowed just five hits. But most important for UT's hopes to win its seventh national title on Wednesday, Jungmann's first complete game of the season gave the Texas bullpen a much-needed rest after Monday's 11-inning contest.
His performance in Game 2 from Game 1 was like night and day. It included no wacky nerves. No sweat streaming off his face. And for once for UT, no drama.
"I was very confident in Taylor after [Monday] night. My decision to put him in that situation was my fault and it was a decision that was made in haste," Garrido said. "Going into today's game, I had the utmost confidence in his approach on the mound. He has a great mentality."
Jungmann earned his coach's confidence long before the Longhorns reached Omaha. Two weekends ago against TCU in the Austin Super Regional, the Longhorns were tied 1-1 in a best-of-three series, and Garrido called on Jungmann to carry the team.
The righty responded like a veteran. He struck out five batters and allowed just two hits in six innings. The Longhorns advanced to the CWS with that win.
Against an outstanding LSU lineup on Tuesday, he was even better than that.
"Jungmann had something to say about not having to stay around Omaha another day. He really was outstanding," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "We really couldn't do much with him. He mixed some very good pitches, and had good velocity and a good sinker."
In regional and super regional play, Jungmann hovered around 90-91 mph with his fastball. But against the Tigers, the righty consistently threw in the mid 90s. He reared back on his 115th pitch of the night in the ninth inning and threw 94.
"He just changed speed really well and kept pitches down in the zone," LSU outfielder Jared Mitchell said. "I also thought his movement down in the zone gave our hitters fits."
And the freshman picked the perfect time for his first career complete game.
"I was just saving it [a complete game] for the end, man," an ecstatic Jungmann quipped. "For me, today was just about staying back. I had a really good feel for the ball and just went out there and pounded the zone with strikes."
LSU seized the momentum on Monday with a win in the CWS final series opener, but the weather played against the Tigers on Tuesday.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri watched his Game 1 starter, Louis Coleman, wilt after just a few innings in the heat Monday evening. That prompted him to hold off on starting right-handed pitcher Anthony Ranaudo in Game 2.
The change in the weather changed everything.
One team will leave Rosenblatt Stadium on Wednesday with a national title, and Texas has its confidence back thanks to Jungmann and a thunderstorm.
Garrido and the Longhorns are right back in their comfort zone.
"Now we've created another little bit of drama," Garrido said.
Texas designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer was a high-round draft pick out of high school and turned down the Los Angeles Angels. He was expected to have a fruitful career for the Longhorns. But things haven't gone as planned for much of his career.
That's until the College World Series.
In the CWS final series opener, after Moldenhauer already had launched a pair of homers, Garrido took him out of the game in the late innings for a pinch hitter.
Garrido now knows better.
"I join 350,000 other Texas fans in wondering why I took him out last night," he said.
Moldenhauer hit another home run on Tuesday – his fourth in Omaha, and of the season.
Much was made about Paul Mainieri's decision this morning to start Austin Ross over Anthony Ranaudo.
Ross has been inconsistent this season and entered the contest with an earned run average over five. Ranaudo, meanwhile, was fabulous against Arkansas in his last outing and is tough to master.
But Mainieri decided bringing back Ranaudo on just three days rest was the wrong move.
"Ranaudo hadn't pitched on three days rest his entire career, so who knows how effective he would've been out there," Mainieri said. "Now we have our Friday night starter going in one game to determine the national title. Can't beat that."
LSU reliever Nolan Cain, who threw 3 1/3 shutout innings on Tuesday, also is confident about Ranaudo on the mound in Game 3.
"If you would've told us we'd have him for Game 3, we would've taken that deal any day of the week," Cain said. "Someone is going to be a legend tomorrow and hopefully that's us."
- The Longhorns
- Paul Mainieri