by Steve Pivovar
OMAHA, Neb. – Texas' latest postseason dramatics reinforced the teachings of two of baseball's great philosophers – Augie Garrido and Yogi Berra.
The Longhorns moved into Friday's Bracket Two championship game by pulling off another great escape in beating Arizona State on Tuesday night. Texas fell behind by six runs three innings into the game. The Sun Devils had the pitcher that Garrido considers the best in America on the mound.
But the Longhorns scored 10 straight runs and got a shut-down effort by freshman reliever Taylor Jungmann to snatch the win.
At a point when some coaches might have gone ballistic after watching their teams boot balls and squander opportunities, Garrido gathered his team around him in the dugout before the fourth inning and calmly preached a message of hope.
"How you perceive yourself has more to do in what you become than your skill or your talent," said Garrido, whose team plays today's North Carolina-Arizona State winner at 6 p.m. Friday.
"So if you perceive yourself as a loser, you're going to lose. We had just finished three innings as the Bad News Bears. I reminded them that even the Bad News Bears were good by the end of the movie."
The Longhorns are 7-1 since the tournament started and 48-14-1 overall. They've won games in NCAA play in 25 innings, on a walk-off grand slam and a walk-off walk. They've won on nights when they've had great pitching and meager hitting and when the hitters rescued faltering pitchers.
They beat Arizona State by scoring six runs in the fourth inning against Sun Devils ace Mike Leake, the No. 8 pick in last week's Major League draft and the owner of a 16-1 record and a 1.36 ERA. Catcher Cameron Rupp ignited the rally with a three-run homer, then put Texas ahead with his second homer of the game to lead off the seventh. The Longhorns tacked on three runs in the eighth.
Garrido has coached five national championship teams – three at Cal State Fullerton, two at Texas. He declined to compare the run Texas finds itself on to any of the championship drives his other clubs have made. After all, each team has its own identity, its own soul, its own karma.
He would say this is a team that is learning its lessons.
"We have not had an easy game in our eight games in the tournament," Garrido said. "Each one has demanded different things of this team. What we've done proves to me that there is a certain spirituality, and it's all about attitude and what you have to give to each other and that sense of responsibility you have to each other."
Asked what he and his teammates have learned in their wild ride through the postseason, Texas second baseman Travis Tucker borrowed from Berra's baseball philosophy: It ain't over 'til it's over.
"You can't give up in this game," Tucker said. "No matter how far you're down, there's always a chance to win if we really trust each other and have confidence in each other. That's all you can ask for."
Tucker and Rupp praised Garrido's restraint when Tuesday's game sank to its darkest moment. They've seen that from their coach before, but his reaction on college baseball's grandest stage kept the players from panicking, Rupp said.
"I'm sure coach was upset after the way we had played for the first three innings," he said. "But he stayed calm and he stayed with us."