AUSTIN, Texas – Texas coach Augie Garrido has guided some of the greatest college baseball teams ever to the College World Series and to national titles.
Along the way, Garrido has always insisted, no matter the team, that the game of baseball is always a learning process. He also believes there's always room to get better, as evidenced by the fact his teams haven't escaped an NCAA Regional since 2005.
So when his top-seeded Longhorns stepped on the field against heavy underdog Boston College on Saturday at the Austin Regional, he felt the game would reveal something about his team. It would either expose a flaw that could keep the Longhorns from reaching their ultimate goal of a national title, or show something that would make Garrido further believe UT's seventh national title certainly is within reach.
Garrido saw everything he needed in a 3-2 win over Boston College in a game that lasted an NCAA-record 25 innings and included a star-studded performance by senior reliever Austin Wood.
"To win the national title, you have to continue to develop both in the physical and mental games. Tonight, we went a long way in establishing a new level of confidence and togetherness," Garrido said. "Tonight was when miracles started to take place."
The miracles, reassurances and history couldn't have come at a better time for the aspiring Longhorns.
Texas senior reliever Austin Wood threw 169 pitches, the Longhorns and Eagles combined for 171 at bats and the game took seven hours and three minutes to complete. Heck, even the outfield scoreboard had to be refreshed on two occasions. But in the end, the result was still the same. The Longhorns took care of business and are in the driver's seat to advance to an NCAA Super Regional for the first time in four seasons.
The previous record for the longest college baseball game came in 1971, when Louisiana-Lafayette and McNeese State competed in a 23-inning affair. The game between UT and BC also set an NCAA postseason record: Clemson and Fordham went 19 innings in 1988. Ironically, Clemson won the game 3-2.
"That game took so long I think my jersey went out of style," Garrido joked as he entered the postgame news conference.
"There was a stretch in that game where I thought we were breaking all sorts of records," Boston College coach Mik Aoki said. "Who really knew that a two-run home run from Texas' Kevin Keyes [in the second inning] would be the only runs they'd score for 23 innings."
Aside from the 25-inning story line, Wood put together a performance that, like the game, will be remembered as one of the best ever by a UT pitcher.
Texas starting pitcher Chance Ruffin chipped in a good performance, but the 'Horns decided to go with Wood in the middle innings.
Little did Garrido know that Wood would throw 13 innings – 12 hitless. He threw 169 pitches after throwing 30 the previous night against Army. Of the 169 pitches, 120 were strikes.
"In 41 years of coaching, that was one of the best pitching performances by an individual pitcher that I've ever seen," Garrido said. "Nothing I've ever seen was more courageous than his performance tonight."
The Longhorns contemplated lifting Wood from the game after nine innings. The gutsy senior, though, turned to his coaches and was adamant he wasn't leaving the game under any circumstances. He wasn't kidding.
With the game tied 2-2 in the 20th inning, the Longhorns finally decided it was time to lift Wood, who was visibly trying to stretch out because of cramps in his leg. But when he left the field, the 5,000 or so fans still at UFCU Disch-Falk Field gave him a standing ovation. Even the Boston College players got into the act.
"I have no idea how I got through that outing," Wood said. "I was tired, but I wanted to put in the work. It's just something I really can't explain."
Garrido does have an idea about a few things, though: He believes his team is gelling at the right time and creating some luck, both traits of a national championship team.
Texas needs one more win to advance to a super regional. The last time that happened, in 2005, the Longhorns won the national title.