by Carl DuboisJune 24, 2009 1:38 AM
Freshman Taylor Jungmann did what a College World Series team with its back against the wall needs: go the distance. Because he did, so will the best-of-three championship series.
On a night when Texas wanted to save its bullpen for a possible third game against LSU, Jungmann pitched his first career complete game Tuesday night in a 5-1 victory that ended the Tigers' 14-game winning streak and ensured there will be a Game 3.
Television coverage is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CDT on ESPN. Probable starting pitchers are LSU sophomore right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (11-3, 2.87) and Texas sophomore right-hander Cole Green (5-3, 3.07).
Wind is often the prevailing weather component to play a major role at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium. Rain that delayed the start of Game 2 for 94 minutes -- and the cooler-than-Monday evening that followed -- may have decided the outcome as much before the game as during it.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri elected not to start Ranaudo, turning instead to sophomore right-hander Austin Ross. Ross (6-8) trailed 1-0 before his teammates got to bat, and he didn't make it past the second inning.
“I had no idea the weather was coming. It crept up on us,” said Mainieri, who made his pitching plans Tuesday morning, a few hours after witnessing the effects of a hot, humid Monday night upon the pitchers in Game 1.
“I saw what the weather did to Ruffin yesterday," Mainieri said, recalling the cramps suffered by Texas starter Chance Ruffin in a game LSU won 7-6 in 11 innings.
Ranaudo pitched Friday in a 14-5 victory against Arkansas, and Mainieri wanted him to have another day's rest.
“Ross was charged up to start, and Anthony didn’t think he was starting,” Mainieri said, suggesting the cooler temperatures came through too late in the day for him to ask Ranaudo to put on his game face.
Texas coach Augie Garrido knew the drop in temperature from the time the Longhorns arrived at Rosenblatt to the time the rain-delayed game began boosted Jungmann's chances of pitching nine innings.
“There was the rain, and it played an important part in the game tonight. It took the temperature down. It helped Taylor finish the game. When we got off the bus, it was steamy,” Garrido said.
Players took care of the rest.
“His teammates got him the lead,” Garrido said. “I’ve always thought that the best thing for a curveball is a four-run lead.”
Jungmann (11-3) protected it by holding LSU to five hits and two walks. He struck out nine and lowered his ERA to 2.00 with a smooth delivery that frustrated the Tigers while making his pitch count of 126 seem relatively inconsequential.
The performance gave Texas (50-15-1) a chance for one more comeback this postseason -- a comeback from a 1-0 series deficit with two victories to secure a national championship.
“We've created another bit of drama,” Garrido said.
LSU (55-17) gets one last shot to prevent the most important Texas rally of the season.
“I think we’ll stay around here in Omaha for another day if that’s OK,” Mainieri said.
Russell Moldenhauer and Preston Clark, who was 3-for-4, hit home runs for Texas. The Longhorns survived three errors.
Moldenhauer, who has three homers in the championship series, tied a CWS record in becoming the 10th player to hit four homers in one College World Series. He is the first player in CWS history to hit his first four home runs of the season at the College World Series.
His third-inning homer Tuesday off Ryan Byrd came in Moldenhauer's first official at-bat against a left-handed pitcher this season. He had walks in two previous plate appearances against lefties.
“I was seeing the ball well,” Moldenhauer said of the at-bat against Byrd. “I was laying off the sliders. He was throwing low in the zone. I had a hunch he’d come back inside, and he left it up enough for me to elevate.”
Byrd gave up three runs on three hits and couldn't get the third out of the third inning. Nolan Cain took his place and shut out Texas on three hits on his way to recording 10 outs, but the Longhorns had their 5-1 margin of victory by the end of the third inning.
Daniel Bradshaw finished with three shutout innings for the Tigers.
LSU didn't waste time falling behind. Ross opened the game with five consecutive pitches outside the strike zone. LSU catcher Micah Gibbs threw a ball away to put a runner at second base, and just like that the Tigers' run of error-free games in Omaha was over. Soon, so was the winning streak.
“The start was terrible," Mainieri said. “To walk the first batter on four pitches ... then they were going to sacrifice, and the next pitch wasn’t close. Then the error on Gibbs trying to pick off the runner, and they scored right away.”
Clark hit his homer in the second inning for a 2-1 lead after Jared Mitchell scored in the top of the inning.
“I thought we were very fortunate that they only scored one run in each of the first two innings,” Mainieri said.
Garrido took blame for Jungmann's six-pitch performance Monday night, a blink-and-you-missed-it appearance that featured a walk and a 2-0 count on the next batter before another reliever took Jungmann's place.
“It was my decision to put him in that position (Monday) night. It was a decision made in haste. I put him into something he wasn’t prepared for. He is a pitcher and a real good one,” Garrido said.
Jungmann said he mixed his pitches well, something the Tigers said before Texas had its turn in the postgame news conference.
“I had a good feel for the ball,” Jungmann said.
Before Tuesday night, LSU was 5-0 in Omaha when it had an opportunity to win a national title. Under the old format of a single championship game, LSU won championships in 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 2000.
A lot of LSU fans who have never seen the school lose a true national championship game, one in which both teams had a chance to win a title with a victory, now turn their focus to tonight's game. They've seen BCS national championship games in football for the 2003 and 2007 seasons, plus the five baseball titles.
That could change if Texas continues its comeback magic. The Longhorns, the designated home team for tonight, will have the last turn at bat if they need it.
Ranaudo hopes to shut down their bats, and his teammates said they have confidence heading into the season's final game.
“We have Anthony (Ranaudo), Louis (Coleman) and Matty (Ott) who are ready to go,” Cain said, “and Daniel (Bradshaw) and I are available to get a couple of outs, so we feel confident. This is what we want to play for.
“Someone’s going to be a legend tomorrow. Hopefully it will be us.”
Carl Dubois began writing about LSU sports on a regular basis in 1999. He watched the game Tuesday night on ESPN and got player and coach reaction from the NCAA's Web site. He thinks tonight's game will be memorable regardless of which team wins, and he still thinks someone unexpected will provide a highlight-video moment. You can contact him by writing carl1061 'at' gmail.com.