Texas returns to Omaha with comeback win
AUSTIN, Texas -- Disch-Falk Field has seen this scene before. The flash bulbs. The anxious ovation from the 7,172 in attendance. And finally, a Texas pitcher celebrating on the mound.
Texas, via a 4-2 win over fellow power Arizona State, is back in the College World Series. After a one-year absence, the Longhorns will make their 34th trip to Omaha, the most of any program in college baseball by 11 berths.
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireTexas' Game 3 win over Arizona State sent the Longhorns to the College World Series for the 34th time.
Mark Payton and Brandon Loy batted in a pair of runs in the sixth inning to give the Longhorns the decisive 4-2 lead. Texas, which lost the opening game of the series on Friday, clinched the berth with a pair of wins to move to 8-1 in elimination games dating back to the Big 12 tournament.
Arizona State coach Tim Esmay, left without a third starter because of injury, said on Saturday that Sunday would be up to a committee, which could be construed as code for "We need runs."
It got them early for starter Kyle Ottoson when Riccio Torrez hit a two-run home run to right field to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Though that committee ended up being mostly a second strong performance of the super regional from Mitchell Lambson, who pitched the game's final five innings, the early cushion wasn't enough.
"I left some pitches over the middle, and Texas' batters took advantage of them," Lambson said.
Instead, a committee of four Texas pitchers kept Arizona State off the board after the first-inning home run.
"The pitching staff was remarkable," Texas manager Augie Garrido said. "The matchups were really timely."
Arizona State might have added more or needed less without a pair of controversial calls in the fourth and fifth innings.
"The umpires are the third team. They're going to make mistakes, they're going to make calls," Garrido said. "It's a part of the game."
In the fourth, Arizona State had a runner advance to third base on a walk and an error, but the runner was moved back to first base and the batter called out after the umpire ruled he had interfered with catcher Jacob Felts' throw to second base.
Garrido said he was "happy" with the result, but admitted he only argued that the runner shouldn't be given third base.
"There's something else about this rule that prevents [runners moving to third base] or we'd be doing it all the time," he said. "I didn't know. I really didn't know that they would do that. I didn't know where it went. I don't have the rule where I can quote it or be able to say, 'Hey, this is how it reads in the rule book.'"
Garrido said he'd never seen interference called on a base on balls.
"It was a judgment call, and the call was made," said Esmay. "We still had the lead, and they came back and tied the ball game up. ... That's part of baseball and it's going to be part of baseball forever."
Texas tied the game in the fifth inning when Lambson was called for a balk, bringing Loy home.
Lambson wasn't given an explanation, but Esmay said the umpires told him he "rolled into it."
"I had no idea, really. I was just pitching out there, and the umpire made the call," Lambson said, when asked if he believed he had balked.
Arizona State's Joey DeMichele hit a deep triple to right center in the top of the ninth inning, but the Longhorns ended the game by forcing first baseman Zach Wilson into a pop up.
"There's going to be calls that happen in a game, you've got to overcome them. I thought we did a good job of hanging in there," Torrez said. "We still had an opportunity to stay in the game and win the game at the end there."