Austin Dicharry

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Daily Texan on June 9, 2011. Former Longhorns pitcher Taylor Jungmann, profiled here, will play in Saturday's Alumni Game.

Six straight balls. Six painful errors two years ago in Omaha, one after another, that began Taylor Jungmann’s heartbreaking education as a college pitcher.

The Longhorns are clinging to a 6-4 lead in game one of the 2009 College World Series against Louisiana State. It’s the top of the ninth inning. There is one out and a man on first base. Jungmann, a freshman, comes to the mound with orders of closing the game out. Derek Helenihi is the first batter he faces, a right-handed hitter who is hitting .255 and is already 0-for-3 in the game.

Ball one. Then ball two. A third. The take sign is on for Helenihi with a 3-0 count, but Jungmann still can’t get a pitch over the plate. Ball four.

“I think I got a little ahead of myself,” Jungmann said, two years after. “I might have gotten out of the moment.”

Each time Jungmann has failed, he has gone on to succeed. Such inspiration — you could almost call it vengeance — doesn’t completely make up who he is as a pitcher, no. The sheer physicality of Jungmann has a heavy hand in his dominance: the imposing 6-foot-6 righty — from the mound he looks like some Herculean giant — can pitch all game if he has to. His elite weapons, the fastball that cuts into the catcher’s mitt around 94 mph, the slashing slider, and the deceptive change-up, leave batters clueless. But Jungmann’s quiet strength, devoid of fear or apprehension or even a perspective of the moment, and his hunger to always win, has made him the best big-game pitcher in college baseball.

Helenihi takes his free base, which puts Tigers on first and second. Jungmann, clearly rattled, throws ball one to the next batter, Tyler Hanover. Then he throws ball two.

Jungmann is pulled from the game, replaced by fellow freshman Austin Dicharry. Hanover strikes out, but a sharp double down the left-field line by the next batter, DJ LeMahieu, scores both the runner on second and Helenihi to tie the game 6-6.

The Tigers win it two innings later. Jungmann is credited with the tying run.

“Anytime you have an outing like that, you spend the whole night thinking about how you could fix it,” he said.

The next night, Jungmann redeemed himself, throwing a complete game, allowing one run on five hits and striking out nine Tigers in a 5-1 win. He threw 120 pitches that night. But still, you couldn’t help but think about the fact that, had he done his job in game one, the series would have been over and Texas would have been headed back to Austin with its seventh national championship.

“I still think about it,” he said. “I see the guys like [volunteer assistant coach] Travis Tucker who are still around here that were on the team. I think about if I were able to close that first game out, we could have won it.”

The cruelty of baseball revealed itself in game three, where Jungmann had to watch as the Tigers pounced — winning 11-4 in a runaway.

He took what he had to learn the hard way in Omaha — to not play out of the moment — and applied it to his sophomore season, winning eight games, none bigger than game two in the Super Regional against TCU. Staring down elimination — the Horned Frogs had won the first of the best-of-three series — Jungmann pitched his team to a 15-1 win.

“I try not to think about situations,” he said. “You have to try not to look at a big game differently.”

Texas forgot to save some runs, and lost it the next day 4-1.

This season, Jungmann has taken dominance to another level. Before postseason play, he was the nation’s best at 13-0, with an ERA of less than one. After he took down Texas A&M in the biggest game of the year — in College Station, no less — head coach Augie Garrido said that his ace was the best he had seen since Jered Weaver . Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson, who has groomed big-leaguers such as Clayton Kershaw and Homer Bailey, agreed with Garrido.

“I think he’s probably the best I’ve ever coached,” Johnson said. “He has a gift.”

The Big 12 Pitcher-of-the-Year Award went to Jungmann, and he’s been named one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award , college baseball’s Heisman Trophy. Everything was going so well for him, until rare and unexpected failure finally struck again Saturday against Kent State in the Austin Regional.

His eyes are wet and his voice is strained. It is the most uncomfortable press conference of Taylor Jungmann’s life. He has just been rocked by Kent State in a pivotal game of the Austin Regional, and now, his Longhorns are a loss away from elimination. Nobody knew how to deal with it — his teammates admit they are shocked to see their All-American pitcher get knocked out by a three-seed. Said senior first baseman Tant Shepherd : “We had never seen anything like that happen to him.” The last thing Jungmann wants to do after this loss, his first of the year, is sit in front of the hot lights and answer the media’s whys and hows.

“I just didn’t have it,” he says, staring into space.

In the sixth inning, Jungmann was mercifully pulled from the game. As he walked off the mound and into the dugout after allowing a grand slam, a walk and a single in one inning, he was given a standing ovation by the gracious Texas crowd, aware that it might never see big No. 26 on the mound at Disch-Falk again.

“By the time I was done pitching, I wasn’t happy,” he said. “I didn’t even hear them.”

Thankfully for Jungmann, the Longhorns sent Texas State and Kent State home, winning three in a row to set up this weekend’s Super Regional. Now Jungmann gets the ball Friday with the chance to redeem his reputation as the best big-game pitcher around and set the tone for a possible return trip to Omaha. And we all know how Jungmann reacts
to failure.

“I’ve been bad before,” he said, “And the next time up, it’s a totally different game.”

Four Longhorns begin pro careers

Jonathan Walsh's pro career is off and running.
Jonathan Walsh's pro career is off and running.

Four Longhorns were drafted in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, and they have all signed with their new professional teams.

Hoby Milner, Jonathan Walsh and Sam Stafford -- who was drafted in the second round last year by the Yankees, failed to sign because of shoulder problems then missed his would-be senior season because of said problems -- each decided to forgo their last college season. Austin Dicharry, whose collegiate career was marred by injuries, was rather lucky to be drafted by the Nationals in the 24th round.

Milner, drafted in the sixth round by the Phillies, was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in one short season with Williamsport in the New York-Pennsylvania League. Milner, who projects as a reliever, struck out seven and walked two in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He's since progressed to Class-A Lakewood, where he yielded four earned in one start -- resulting in an ERA of 12.00.

The Los Angeles Angels nabbed Walsh in the 11th round, and while it wasn't easy to pass up his final season, the outfielder knew he had to take the money while he could.

"I love Texas, but it was time for me to go, with how the draft works," Walsh said via text.

Walsh saw teammates Cole Green and Kevin Lusson turn down professional offers after their junior seasons, only to see their draft slot drop a year later. Green turned down a $300,000 signing bonus from the Detroit Tigers in 2010. He was picked five rounds later in 2011, a big drop-off in money. Lusson went undrafted this past June.

Through 13 games with the Orem Owlz in short-season rookie ball, Walsh is hitting .244 with two homers. In 50 games with the Longhorns as a junior, Walsh hit six home runs.

"I started out hot, but had a tough last week," Walsh said. "But I'm loving [not having to hit at Disch-Falk Field] for sure."

Stafford hasn't recorded any Minor League stats, as he's still rehabbing from season-ending shoulder surgery. It's a pleasant surprise that he was drafted in the 13th round by the Rangers, despite missing a full season and having a shoulder complication previously red-flagged so much by the Yankees that they couldn't agree to terms.

If Stafford can get healthy and then pitch to his capabilities, it wouldn't surprise anybody within the Texas program one bit if he becomes a top-three starter. He's left-handed, which is a plus, and he has such dynamic stuff -- which at times was better than Taylor Jungmann's in 2011.

Dicharry, a senior, actually improved his draft stock between this year and last. The Phillies took a flier on Dicharry in the 41st round in '11, as he pitched just one inning because of nagging shoulder injury. He made some money this season with a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings pitched.

In three relief appearances with the Nationals rookie squad in the Gulf Coast League, Dicharry has allowed one earned run on two hits in five innings pitched, with five strikeouts. 

Jacob Felts extends for a hit against the Texas State Bobcats. Felts went two for three from the plate and drove in a run in the win.

Photo Credit: Skylar Isdale | Daily Texan Staff

When a team reels off three straight hits, it’s almost impossible to keep them from scoring.

But sophomore catcher Jacob Felts helped Texas do just that in the third inning of last night’s game against Texas State. Garrett Mattlage led off the frame with a base hit but was picked off at first base by Felts. Then, leadoff hitter Tyler Sibley also singled but was caught stealing at second base, gunned down by Felts. The next Bobcats hitter also singled but was stranded at first base after senior Austin Dicharry got Jeff McVaney to pop out and end the inning.

“Our catcher saved the game,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “Dicharry gave him an opportunity to be a star. He put three runners on first base — one [Felts] picked off, one he threw out going to second.”

Felts went on to break up Texas State starter Taylor Black’s no-hit bid with a two-out single in the fifth. Sophomore right fielder Mark Payton drove in the first run of the game in the following frame and Felts provided an insurance run with an RBI double in the seventh inning as No. 23 Texas (20-13, 8-3) beat Texas State for the second time this year, 2-0, at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Tuesday evening.

“My main thing is defense. Anything that I can do on offense is just bonus,” Felts said. “I feel more relaxed at the plate. As a freshman, I got put in a big role catching all those guys. I was kind of overwhelmed by the atmosphere but I’ve settled in a little bit more.”

Black, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound redshirt freshman from Allen, held the Longhorns hitless through 4 2/3 innings, racking up seven strikeouts before allowing his first hit. Felts’ single in the fourth advanced junior designated hitter to second base — Texas’ first runner in scoring position — but didn’t lead to any runs. It did, however, take the pressure off a Longhorns lineup that had seen Black retire 13 hitters in a row at one point.

“If you talk too much about what we didn’t do offensively, you start taking away from the quality of the pitching,” Garrido said. “We would like to play better offensively, of course, but what you have to do against that quality of pitching is lay off the pitches outside the strike zone and you have to hit line drives because that’s the only thing that intimidates the pitcher.”

Felts’ base hit, along with his double in the seventh inning that allowed sophomore first baseman Alex Silver to cross the plate and give Texas a 2-0 cushion, certainly did the trick. But the Longhorns would not have been able to draw first blood if it hadn’t been for Felts’ game-saving putouts in the third inning, starting with the pickoff of Mattlage at first base.

“He’s unbelievable behind the plate,” said Payton, who extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 34 with a leadoff walk in the first inning. “Even with his hitting, the outs that he’s had this year have been pretty hard outs. He’s probably the hardest worker we have on this team. We respect him the most.”

As great as Black was, the pitching staff that Felts caught was even better. Like they do every midweek game, the Longhorns used a long string of hurlers to get past Texas State, starting with freshman Dillon Peters, who threw two scoreless innings to begin the contest. Texas starting pitchers have a 1.16 ERA in the team’s last five games.

Texas State did not get anyone past first base until a Bobcats baserunner trotted from first to second base uncontested in the ninth inning. The Longhorns also did not surrender a hit in the game’s last six innings, thanks to freshman John Curtiss, junior Hoby Milner and sophomore closer Corey Knebel.

“They did a really good job of getting ahead of hitters,” said Felts. “They threw all of their pitches for strikes. They did a good job of holding us there so we could get a rally.”

It may be difficult to keep a team from scoring when they get three straight hits. But it’s even harder to keep a team from losing if you don’t let them score. Thanks to Felts, Texas was able to accomplish both of those feats.

Printed on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Felts helps Horns at plate, provides insurance RBI

Freshman pitcher Parker French got the win and retired all six batters he faced. The pitching staff had three hits, one walk and ten strike outs.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The timeless baseball strategy of a starter going deep in the game hasn’t been working for Texas in the past week. So on Tuesday, the Longhorns went with six different pitchers to secure the shutout.

All four members of Texas’ starting rotation saw time on the rubber on Tuesday night, pitching at least one inning each.

“Normally [the starters] would be taking bullpens today,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “But because of what happened with Stanford we wanted them in a competitive environment, which forces them back on the mound and makes them put on a competitive game face.”

Austin Dicharry started the game for Texas and gave the team exactly what they needed — two quick and efficient innings that led the team to a good start.

Dicharry got through the first inning facing the minimum number of batters and striking out two. He then came out in the second and gave the Longhorns more of the same, retiring every batter but one, and that was on a weakly hit grounder that just managed to find a hole.

“Those were two of the best innings he’s thrown since he was a freshman, when he was one of the best pitchers on the staff,” Garrido said.

From there, Garrido went to his bullpen to finish the game — sort of. The next three pitchers to see the rubber for Texas were members of its usual weekend rotation.

Nathan Thornhill was up first and quickly established a rhythm, striking out the first two Huskies he faced. After a runner reached base on a throwing error, Thornhill finished the inning by inducing a fly out to left.

In the fourth, John Curtiss came into the game and quickly took care of business, retiring the side on only 14 pitches.

Up next for the Longhorns was lefty starter Hoby Milner, who came into the game and gave the Longhorns two solid bridge innings to get to the real members of the bullpen.

Milner gave up no runs but had to work out of a bit of trouble in his time on the mound, which included a couple of hard hit balls and a dropped throw from first baseman Kirby Bellow that almost put a run on the board for Houston Baptist.

At this point in the game, the Longhorn offense wasn’t giving much to aide their pitchers’ stellar performances. But the staff was up to the test. In the seventh, Parker French came in and gave Texas a stellar inning, throwing just six pitches to get through the side.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the offense woke up and pushed across two runs — all the pitching staff would need on this night.

From there, French came out in the eighth and mowed the Huskies down 1-2-3, once again. This allowed Texas to get the ball to its All-American closer Corey Knebel, who dominated the middle of the Houston Baptist order facing the minimum three batters with two strikeouts.

“We had our whole staff going today,” said junior outfielder Jonathan Walsh. “All of them came in, did their job and threw some strikes and made it look a lot easier than it was. When they come out there and throw like that it makes it a lot easier on the defense.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 as: Six pitchers allow three hits in win

Texas used a two-run eighth inning to complete a comeback and beat UT-Pan American 4-2 on Tuesday. Mark Payton hit a ground-rule double that scored Paul Montalbano, right before it hopped over the right field wall.

“Our pitchers settled down after a rough start and took control of the game,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “The defense played well behind them and we manufactured the runs at the right time.”

Austin Dicharry started for Texas but only lasted one inning after surrendering two runs. It was Dicharry’s first appearance since last April, and the junior walked two and gave up four hits.

“I came out there a little amped up. I think I was trying to overdo it a bit with that curveball,” Dicharry said. “Unfortunately, I was up in the strike zone today and didn’t do the best I could.”

Brandon Loy cut into the Broncs’ lead in the third inning with a two-out double that scored Montalbano. Payton had a chance to bring Loy home the next at-bat but grounded out to shortstop and couldn’t beat the throw to first base. Texas was plagued by another slow start offensively, and had only three hits through five innings.

“We know at some point we’re going to find our rhythm and score runs,” Payton said. “We’re not hoping it’s going to come or thinking it’s going to come. We know it’s going to come.”

Josh Urban pitched four innings out of the bullpen for Texas in a no-decision. The sophomore struck out six while giving up only one hit and one walk but said it wasn’t his best work.

“I missed a couple spots with the slider and I didn’t feel like I had my legs with me, he said. “They felt a little heavier than normal. I’m a quick-tempo guy, so I was rushing a little bit and that mixed in with it also.”

Payton tied the game in the sixth inning on a double down the left field line by Erich Weiss, and finished the game 3-4 with two runs and an RBI.

The Longhorns took the lead for good in the eighth with Payton’s ground-rule double that fell a few feet short of a home run. Payton is still waiting for the first home run of his career.

“Me and [UT first base coach] Travis Tucker joke with each other that it’s getting closer and closer each time,” Payton said. “We have a joke with the whole team, that the field’s too big for us little guys.”

Cohl Walla pinch-hit for Texas three batters later and hit an RBI single to left field that scored Erich Weiss. Walla has been nursing a left leg contusion for several weeks, and it was his first action since March 29. Dex Kjerstad pinch-ran for Walla, who isn’t quite ready to run yet.

“Everything felt fine in pregame hitting, except when I went into the outfield to run,” Walla said. “I can’t run at all right now.”

Kendal Carrillo pitched a perfect eighth inning to set up the save for Corey Knebel. It was Knebel’s 12th save of the year, the best in the Big 12.

Tuesday can be a slow day for Texas at Disch-Falk Field. The competition isn’t as tough as the weekend series’ and the crowds aren’t as big, which can put the Longhorns in a fog. Players have admitted that they’ve had trouble this season with their excitement level on Tuesdays, and coaches realize it can be a problem.

It won’t be a problem for Austin Dicharry.

Dicharry will start tonight against Texas-Pan American, making his season debut and first appearance for No. 7 Texas since last April, when he suffered a bone bruise in his elbow.

“It’s been a long journey,” Dicharry said. “It means a whole bunch to me to get back up on the mound and get back out there and compete again.”

Dicharry hasn’t pitched for Texas since he threw four scoreless innings against Texas A&M-Corpus Chisti on April 7, 2010. The bruise on his elbow only hurt for about a month, but it took the junior a while to build up his arm strength to playing level again.

“I hurt it in early April and sat out for a month, but since then my arm’s been fine,” he said.

Dicharry said it took him longer to get his arm angle back on his pitches. He’s been working with Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson during practice and throwing to hitters in simulated starts to get accustomed to a starting role again. He was 0-3 with a 3.62 ERA in seven appearances last season, five of which were starts.

“As a starter, you don’t want to go out there and start walking the yard,” Dicharry said. “So my biggest concern for me is to go out there and start throwing strikes down in the strike zone and have command on my pitches.”

Dicharry fills the void left by Sam Stafford, Texas’ usual Tuesday starter. Stafford started Sunday for Texas, complimenting the move of left-hander Hoby Milner to the bullpen. Texas head coach Augie Garrido said he’s satisfied with the new rotation.

“I have more confidence in it than I do in any other combination,” Garrido said.

Dicharry said he will most likely be on a pitch count tonight, so the Texas bullpen will have another chance to showcase its arms. It’s been a year since Dicharry was on the mound last, but he still knows what it takes to pitch a solid game.

“You can’t be afraid of the hitters and you can’t give them too much,” Dicharry said. “Every college team can hit, so I just got to go out there and challenge UT-Pan Am and put them on defense rather than on offense.”