Taylor Jungmann

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.”

Belt, Stubbs, Jungmann, and Teagarden to play Alumni Game

Brandon Belt, Drew Stubbs, Taylor Jungmann and Taylor Teagarden will be among the former Longhorns playing in Saturday's Alumni Game.

Belt hit .257 with 56 RBIs as the starting first baseman for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants last season.  Stubbs, who was the starting center fielder on the Longhorns' 2005 national title squad, hit 14 home runs and stole 30 bases for the Cincinnati Reds last year. Teagarden, Texas' starting catcher on the 2005 championship team, backed up Matt Weiters for the Baltimore Orioles last season. Jungmann, the Brewers' first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, is considered one of Milwaukee's top pitching prospects.

Omaha: Day 2

An aerial view of cheetahs from the sky safari, a gondola lift that passes over the parks collection of African animals.
An aerial view of cheetahs from the sky safari, a gondola lift that passes over the parks collection of African animals.

With baseball still a day away, I took the opportunity this morning to see what else Omaha had to offer in terms of entertainment. Rosenblatt Stadium sits south of downtown just off of I-80, and the Henry Doorly Zoo shares the same parking lot.

A docent at the Omaha Doorly Zoo kisses a chimpanzee through the glass. Docents and other volunteers help greatly at the Zoo, which is a non-profit organization.

I was really impressed with the level of interaction I was able to have with the animals. I stood in front of a window as a 400 lb. gorilla beat its chest and slammed itself into the glass and I walked along a corridor as an alligator swam in its tank next to me. I rode a ski lift over the giraffe and rhinoceros exhibits I haven’t been that close to lions since I was in Africa.

There are already enough animals in the College World Series, what with Longhorns, Gators, Bears and Gamecocks, but I took a half-hearted attempt at comparing Texas’ starting lineup for Friday to animals that matched their looks or characteristics. I promise to be more normal once they start playing baseball.

Children play in front of a penguin tank at the Omaha Doorly Zoo.

Taylor Jungmann, RHP, meerkat
He’s really not going to like this, but there was a meerkat colony at the zoo and the resemblance is striking. Taylor may actually punch me in the face the next time he sees me.

Tant Shepherd, first baseman, lobster
His teammates call him a lobster because of his giant first baseman’s glove, and I’m not one to mess around with team chemistry. I’m still getting over the fact I just wrote Taylor Jungmann looks like a meerkat.

Jordan Etier, second baseman, Tazmanian devil
Etier is dynamic at second base and unpredictable at the plate, but the thing that he does that reminds me of a tazmanian devil the most is the way he spins around in a small tornado while running the bases.

This is the first year the College World Series will not be held next door to the Doorly Zoo. Officials there expect higher than average attendance over the next week as a result. 

Brandon Loy, shortstop, spider monkey
Loy bounces around in the six hole and can cover more ground than any infielder in the conference, but I haven’t seen him hang from a tree by his tail yet.

Erich Weiss, third baseman, ostrich
It’s easier for Weiss to fly than it is for an ostrich, but he may not want to with all the extra fees airlines charge these days.

Jacob Felts, catcher, rhinoceros
His catcher’s equipment is similar to a rhino’s armor-like skin, and Felts probably spends just as much time rolling around in the dirt as one.

Jonathan Walsh, left fielder, mountain lion
This is by far the most flattering comparison I’ve made so far. Maybe Walsh can help me out when Jungmann comes after me.

Paul Montalbano, centerfielder, hyena
Paul strikes me as one of the happiest players on the team, no matter if he’s hitting well or in the middle of a slump.

The Zoo’s aquarium will be expanding in the next few years. It’s already one of the most crowded attractions.

Mark Payton, right fielder, badger
Payton’s from Illinois so he may not like the comparison to a Wisconsin mascot, but he fits the fits the bill nicely. Mark has a tough, scrappy attitude while in the field and at the plate, something he probably got from his hockey days, and even though badgers are small they are definitely not to be messed with.

Kevin Lusson, designated hitter, tortoise
He came on slow this season, but Lusson might have the most power in his bat on the team.

Augie Garrido, head coach, owl
Physical comparisons aside, coach Garrido conducts himself like a wise owl, even the way he perches himself at the steps of the dugout during games.

Photos by Andrew Edmonson.

Longhorns earn conference accolades

The Texas baseball team cleaned up the 2011 Big 12 baseball awards. Take at the Longhorns that picked up the individual honors.

Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Jungmann (12-0, .95 ERA, 109 SOs)

Freshman of the Year: Erich Weiss (.370 batting average, .509 on-base percentage)

Co-Coach of the Year*: Augie Garrido (19-8 league record)

 *Shared with Texas A&M’s skipper Rob Childress

All-Big 12 First Team:

Brandon Loy, SS
Erich Weiss, 3B
Taylor Jungmann, SP
Corey Knebel, RP

All-Big 12 Second Team:

Tant Shepherd, 1B

Honorable Mention:

Cole Green, SP
Paul Montalbano, OF

All-Freshman Team:

Jacob Felts, C
Mark Payton, OF
Erich Weiss, 3B
Corey Knebel, RP

For a full list of the 2011 All-Big 12 baseball awards, check out www.big12sports.com

Jungmann keeps delivering

There’s a lot to think about on a two-hour drive home from College Station in the dead of night. Making the return trip, I thought a little about the surprisingly good cup of coffee I had bought from Chevron, thought a lot about my falling GPA -- not the Mendoza Line but definitely won’t be confused with Ted Williams’ 1941 batting average -- and I thought too much about how dark, creepy and deserted Highway 21 was and how I hoped I wouldn’t meet the fate Justin Long did in Jeepers Creepers.

But I spent the most time thinking about what I had seen from Taylor Jungmann in Texas’ 4-2 win over the Aggies. His stat line speaks for itself -- nine innings pitched, 12 strikeouts, two earned runs and 121 pitches thrown – but it’s becoming obvious that box scores can no longer tell the whole story when you’re talking about Jungmann.

I think that Jungmann is the best athlete to wear a Longhorn uniform since Vince Young. I think this because of not only the impressive numbers that he puts up, but also because of what he means to his team and the way in which he plays the game. But I mostly think this because of Jungmann’s ability to match and even exceed any expectations we ultimately set for him.

Think about Vince for a second, specifically the 2006 National Championship. Going into it, we knew that Texas’ only chance to win would be to match and eventually outscore USC’s historic offense. And we knew that responsibility would fall to Vince Young. We also knew that Vince would probably be great, because he was all year, but if he wasn’t then there was absolutely no shot. Not only did Vince meet the “greatness” requirement, he surpassed it. There are really no words to describe the 267/200 stat line he posted, and there is no way to overstate the importance of his performance. If Vince doesn’t do exactly what he did, the Longhorns lose. Like, if he throws for 267 yards but rushes for 190, there is most likely no burnt orange celebration. It was a one-man show, a fantastic performance. But it was just enough to ensure a win. We expected “great.” Somehow, Vince gave us better than that.

Taylor Jungmann’s career reminds me of that. The two sports are completely different, and the spotlight isn’t on Jungmann like it was always on Vince. But consider what Jungmann has done in his three years.

He has 33 wins, with six losses. He is 12-0 this year and undefeated at home. Currently, he has the nation’s second-longest win streak. Twice, he has been sent out in postseason do-or-die situations and come through. In his freshman year, 2009, Texas had to win the second game of the CWS Finals against LSU to stay alive. The Longhorns throw the 19-year-old Jungmann out there in the biggest pressure-cooker of his life, and does this: 9 ip, five hits, one run (unearned), nine strikeouts.

Last year, Texas had dropped game one against TCU in the Super Regional. Once again, the Longhorns were in a must-win situation. Jungmann gets the draw, and does this: 8.1 ip, six hits, one earned run, and nine strikeouts.

In those two crucial games, Jungmann allowed one earned run total. He struck out eighteen total, allowed eleven hits, and needed just .2 innings of relief help. This all on a national stage and with a gargantuan weight on his back.

We knew going into Thursday’s game against A&M and its ace John Stilson that Texas was not going to score many runs. With that knowledge, it was pretty much an accepted fact that Jungmann had to be great or else the Aggies would probably win and then take control of a very important Big 12 Conference race. The Longhorns ended up scoring four, though one was unearned and all came in a rather weird fashion, but they didn’t plate a run until seventh inning. It was clear that Stilson didn’t have his best stuff – far from it – but he still got out of any jam he got himself into. In the third inning, the Longhorns left the bases loaded. In the fourth, they left two on. That’s two consecutive innings with the final out being recorded with two runners in scoring position in each situation. And they just kept coming up with nothing to show for it, choking away potential scoring opportunities in the biggest game of the season. As a relatively unbiased spectator, I was frustrated. I’m sure Jungmann, from the dugout, was incredibly frustrated -- though he’d never tell you that. He was doing his best to keep the Aggies quiet, but he would eventually need some offensive support.

The Ags pushed a run across in the third and then another in the fifth. But Jungmann remained calm, trusted that somehow, someway, run support would come, and focused on his job. He blocked out a very loud Olsen Field crowd. He fought through a sticky humidity. He pitched from behind. And, most demoralizing to any Aggie, he got better as the game went on.

A rhythm was developed during the sixth inning, and the junior pitcher never looked back. In the last four innings, Texas A&M didn’t get a legal hit (fielder’s choice). In that span, Jungmann struck out seven batters. For comparison, Stilson struck out three all game.

In the postgame interviews, Jungmann prefers a low word count. If you pitch him a yes or no question, he’ll simply respond “yes” or “no.” He doesn’t concede emotion or any signs of vulnerability. This persona will soon serve him well in the big leagues: the less you know a guy, the less you see him smile or laugh or grimace or frown, the more intimidating he is on the mound. Jungmann knows this.

No, you’ll never get a great sound byte out of him. But an interview with Jungmann is always interesting because there is more to learn from his preferred silence than there is from another player’s exuberance.

I’ve learned two things about him. First, he’s not intimidated by anybody. A few weeks ago against Oklahoma, Jungmann was in a bases-loaded jam. At the plate was Garrett Buechele, who happens to be hitting .339 with 55 RBI and 7 home runs this year. Jungmann got Buechele to fly out. When asked about the clash between the ace pitcher and the accomplished slugger, Jungmann said he didn’t even think about who was standing sixty feet away from him at home. Didn't even notice it. It’s this mentality that makes him the great pitcher he is, because he has the confidence to throw his best stuff regardless of the situation or the batter.

The second thing I’ve learned about Jungmann is that he shrinks the situation. College World Series? Okay. Elimination game? Alright. Biggest game of the year? I guess. He doesn’t make the mistake of getting over-amped for anything. The constant downplaying of every pivotal at-bat and game is Jungmann’s unique way of battling the mass of expectations a greedy fan base puts on him.

Most players aren’t like this. The other day I asked Texas’ best hitter Erich Weiss what it was like to be relied on so heavily. He admitted that there was a lot of pressure with his responsibility. There's nothing at all wrong with that, but I am fairly certain Jungmann would ever admit any sort of pressure or acknowledge any standard set for him. I’m not sure the P word is even in his vocabulary -- and that’s how he manages to deliver no matter the situation or the expectation.

As you may know, the Longhorns have an incredibly inconsistent offense. Yes, it’s an offense that usually finds a way to cobble together just enough runs, but it’s an offense that leaves a lot of runners in scoring position and takes about half a game to heat up. Because of this, Texas has relied on its pitching staff more than ever this year. That starts with Jungmann, the Friday starter. He sets the tone for each and every weekend series. The Longhorns’ best (and sometimes only) chance at a successful weekend rests on his right arm. And each time he takes the mound, he wins.

As his career has grown, Jungmann has been branded as a sure thing. What’s most amazing is that, no matter the circumstance, he keeps meeting -- and exceeding -- that expectation.

Sophomore pitcher Nathan Thornhill (36) throws a pitch in a recent game. Thornhill has take over for Taylor Jungmann as the LonghornsÂ’ ace pitcher.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Four years ago yesterday, Taylor Jungmann and Nathan Thornhill squared off in an epic pitcher’s duel.

Jungmann, a senior at Georgetown High School, and Thornhill, a sophomore at Cedar Park, each threw three-hitters in a District 16-5A clash in 2008. Neither pitcher surrendered a run in the first six innings but Jungmann came through with the game’s only RBI, getting the decisive hit off of Thornhill in the top of the seventh inning as Georgetown triumphed, 1-0.

Both Jungmann and Thornhill would go on to become aces of the Longhorns pitching staff — Jungmann a year ago and Thornhill this season.

“He definitely gave me a lot of grief for that when he was here,” Thornhill said. “That game and the second time around he got game-winning hits.”

The 12th overall pick in last year’s MLB draft, Jungmann was given a $2.525 million signing bonus by the Milwaukee Brewers. Jungmann went 13-3 with a 1.60 ERA as a junior last year en route to winning the Dick Howser Award for being college baseball’s best player and helping Texas reach the College World Series. He left big shoes to fill for Thornhill, who is 3-2 with a 3.52 ERA this year. Thornhill will take the mound when Texas takes on Texas Tech Thursday evening in Lubbock.

“I have just as much confidence in Nathan as I did in Taylor,” said sophomore catcher Jacob Felts, who has extensive experience with both Thornhill and Jungmann. “He can throw all of his pitches in any counts that he wants to. He’s got command with all his pitches.”

Last year, Thornhill was primarily used as a middle reliever with Jungmann, Cole Green and Sam Stafford making up the Longhorns’ rotation, and freshman Corey Knebel establishing himself as the team’s closer. In 22 appearances and 38 innings, Thornhill went 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA while striking out 38 and walking only six. However, this season Thornhill was thrust into the role of ace pitcher and Friday starter just his second season at Texas.

“He has [become a leader], not only vocally but from a performance standpoint, too,” Felts said. “Whenever we were struggling there for a little bit, he was out there on the mound battling his butt off and a lot guys picked up on that and stepped up behind him.”

Thornhill has made seven starts this season, with the first and the last arguably being the best. In the Longhorns’ first contest of the year, the sophomore hurler tossed five scoreless innings against Duke and highly-regarded pro pitching prospect Marcus Stroman in a 4-0, seven-inning win. Thornhill was sharp again last Friday in a 13-3 victory over Cal at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, allowing five hits and two earned runs over seven innings while striking out five and walking none. The outing marked the second time this year that Thornhill had given up less than three earned runs in at least seven innings of work.

“I’m definitely not satisfied. You’ve got to stay hungry or else you’re never going to get better,” said Thornhill. “I feel like I’ve done a good job of throwing strikes but I feel that one thing I need to work on is constantly attacking the glove and, instead of zoning out occasionally and just throwing to the zone, throwing to the mitt.”

Thornhill isn’t having the sophomore season that Jungmann had during his second year as a Longhorn when he went 8-3 with a 2.03 ERA but, to his credit he is a regular starter for the first time since he was in high school. As a freshman, Thornhill had to be prepared to pitch almost every game. This year, he’s slated to take the mound only once a week.

“In middle relief, you go maybe three innings at the most,” Thornhill said. “Pitching more innings take more focus. As a starter, I’ll be sitting in the locker room for two hours just listening to music. I take a shower before I start. It gives me something to do. You have a lot of time in there by yourself so you just look for things to do.”

Jungmann is set to begin his professional baseball career and has a chance to make Milwaukee’s major-league roster before the end of the season. But he’s still contributing to Texas’ baseball program. Thornhill texted the 6-foot-6 pitcher for advice before his last start and Jungmann told him not to long toss and keep warm-up throws inside 120 feet. Thornhill put the words of wisdom into practice and picked up a win for the first time in a month.

“It seemed to work,” Thornhill said. “He was a great pitcher here, so he’s definitely a guy you want to model yourself after. I’m definitely not as tall as he is, but you still want to pitch like he does.”

Printed on Thursday, April 5, 2012 as: Thornhill settles into role as ace

(Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

Omaha — the Mecca of college baseball, the site of the College World Series and the expected destination for Longhorn baseball teams every year.

Behind pitchers like Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green, hitters like Brandon Loy and Tant Shepherd, and the all-time winningest coach in college baseball history, Texas reached the College World Series for the 34th time last season, a Division I record. Longhorns skipper Augie Garrido is back for his 16th year on the 40 Acres but Jungmann, Green, Loy and Shepherd are all pursuing professional baseball careers.

Without any of its starting pitchers from a year ago and after losing three of its top four hitters, Texas could have a tough time getting back to Omaha.

“I do know that we’ve gone to Omaha with less talent than we have right now,” Garrido said. “But talent doesn’t get you to Omaha, quite honestly. It’s part of it, but it’s not even the most important. Attitude and teamwork are the most important parts.”

Last year marked the seventh time since Garrido took over as the Texas head coach in 1997 that he took the Longhorns to the College World Series. It was Garrido’s pitching staff, one that boasted the nation’s second-lowest ERA a year ago, that carried Texas to Omaha. The Longhorns bring back Corey Knebel, who tied a school record with 19 saves as a freshman in 2011, but will have three new starting pitchers in their rotation — sophomore Nathan Thornhill, junior Hoby Milner and freshman John Curtiss — after Sam Stafford, who was expected to be Texas’ ace, went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.

“You can’t replace a guy like Taylor. You can’t replace a guy like Cole or Sam,” said Thornhill, who will start the season opener against Duke on Friday. “We definitely have a lot of young guys who know how to throw strikes and aren’t afraid to throw strikes, which is a huge deal. We’ve got a lot of guys who are ready to challenge hitters, whether they’re a freshman or senior.”

While the guys Texas was sending to the mound were mowing down the competition, the players in the Longhorns’ lineup didn’t fare as well. Texas posted a team batting average of .269, the third-lowest in the Big 12 and the 224th-best in the country, last season. The Longhorns lost three members of that lineup, including Shepherd and Loy, who were two of their three batters that hit better than .300 last season. Texas’ lineup this year should feature many underclassmen, especially after junior center fielder Cohl Walla suffered a torn ACL during the offseason.

“I think we have some good chances [to get to the College World Series],” said Erich Weiss, who led the team with a .348 batting average in 2011. “There might be a few [different] lineups after the first week going into the second week. Hopefully after that we can get it settled.”

Whether the Longhorns’ lineup, rotation or bullpen will be good enough to get them back to Omaha remains to be seen. Texas is a relatively inexperienced squad but knows what it takes to get there.

“We have enough talent on the pitching staff, we’re going to be able to play defense at a high enough level, and we’re going to be able to play offense at a higher level than we did last year,” Garrido said. “It’s about the fundamentals of the game. If we can master the fundamentals of the game, accept the roles that each player has in teamwork and maintain the right attitude, anything can happen. That’s the beauty of it.”

Kevin Lusson and Jacob Felts (left) congratulate each other on their way to the dugout. North Carolina beat Texas, 3-0, Monday afternoon to knock the Longhorns out of the College World Series.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

How do you close the book on a season that looked like it might never end?

After all, the Longhorns slammed the door on elimination so many times you thought it was a made-for-the-movies team of destiny.

Turns out, Augie Garrido’s bunch just overachieved.

“You didn’t see us overwhelm anybody with physical talent,” Garrido said. “It was about attitude and spirit. You saw a lot of physical talent on the two teams we lost to.”

A trip to Omaha came and went as quickly as the recent summer storm. One moment, it seemed, Texas was about to take down mighty Florida. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was down to its final inning of the season to North Carolina.

Brandon Loy popped up to right for the final out of the 3-0 loss to the Tar Heels, and, just like that, the 2011 chapter was finished.

“People probably didn’t think we’d get out of our Regional, and then we lost the first game against Arizona State,” Loy said. “What we’ve done and what we’ve fought through, that’s what I’m thinking about right now.”

This team began the season with grounded expectations — if the slugging Longhorns of 2010 couldn’t make it to Omaha, how could these .272 hitters?

Somehow, they did. Did it with just 17 home runs. Did it with their backs against the wall more than a few times — winning five straight do-or-die games just to get to Omaha. Even did it without a vintage Taylor Jungmann, whose story the past three weeks is equal parts weird and unfair. After cruising to a 13-0 record, he lost his last three attempts. Ultimately, Jungmann admitted he just didn’t have it.

“Mechanically, some things have been going wrong recently,” he said after the 8-4 loss to Florida.

There was no worse a time for Jungmann to break down, but his 0-3 record since regional play shouldn’t do anything to diminish his legacy as one of the best to pitch here — his 32 wins is eighth of all time, and that’s in three years.

“Taylor learned something about himself that he had never learned before,” Garrido said.

“Hopefully he can convert that into a good experience for himself and a life lesson.”

In the span of a month, Augie wrote a book about life and also drew criticism for a profanity-laced excerpt from his documentary that surfaced on YouTube. He helped guide his team as freshman Alex Silver courageously battled with cancer. When Silver defeated the disease, Garrido started him at third base.

“The only way somebody can feel well is if you treat them like they’re well,” he said.

He also turned in the best coaching job this school has seen in a long time, molding a group that struggled to hit into one of the best eight teams in the nation. Honestly, when’s the last time a Texas athletic program overachieved?

All year, the Longhorns relied on pitching and defense. When the first part of that equation forgot to show up in Omaha, any national championship hopes became a bigger long shot.

“It wasn’t meant to be this time,” Garrido said. “We never got the momentum.”

Texas (49-19) will most likely say goodbye to juniors Jungmann, Sam Stafford and Brandon Loy, all high-round draft picks. Second baseman Jordan Etier also could sign as a free agent.

It will definitely say goodbye to seniors Cole Green and Tant Shepherd, who turned down professional money after their junior seasons for the opportunity to come back and help this team improve.

“I told them in the locker room that they had a lot to be proud of,” Garrido said. “What they did by getting the team here was give us a much brighter future.”

Yes, with returnees such as Hoby Milner, Erich Weiss, Corey Knebel and Mark Payton, the future is indeed bright. But looking so far ahead right now only discounts what the Longhorns did this year — stringing together an improbable season filled with little run support, a bunch of life lessons and a few more wins than anybody probably expected.

Taylor Jungmann contemplates his next pitch on the mound facing Arizona.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

Taylor Jungmann might not be coming back from Omaha with the national championship trophy he wanted, but the junior right-hander did pick up some hardware.

Jungmann was chosen as the recipient of the 2011 Dick Howser Trophy, given annually to the best college baseball player in the country. The Big 12 Pitcher of the Year posted a 13-3 record to go with a 1.60 ERA, and was undefeated in the regular season.

Corey Knebel was also honored as the recipient of the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award, generally for the best closing pitcher in the country. The freshman righty picked up 19 saves this season, which ties the school record.  

Taylor Jungmann (bottom right-hand corner) gave up four earned runs in the 8-4 loss Saturday to Florida. The starting pitcher was once 13-0, but has lost three consecutive games.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

Things sure looked good after two-and-a-half innings for Texas. The lead was 3-0, and Taylor Jungmann, who had yet to give up a hit, would be returning to the mound.

Five runs, four walks, three hits, a wild pitch, a hit batter and many poorly placed pitches later, Jungmann was out of the game, Florida had a lead, and the Longhorns looked out of it.

Today is a new day and a new game; one against another traditional baseball powerhouse in North Carolina. It’s hard to resist taking one last look at Texas’ 8-4 loss to Florida.

Though he had lost two straight postseason games before Saturday night, not too many people actually expected Jungmann’s struggles to continue. Against Florida, he looked like a ghost of himself. His pitching mechanics were poor, he couldn’t consistently repeat his arm angle, he threw seven straight balls at one point and he had no command of any of his usually nasty breaking pitches.

“Around the third inning I got out of rhythm and made some bad pitches,” Jungmann said. “I walked a lot of people and that’s something I don’t usually do.”

Head coach Augie Garrido joked that Jungmann being given a three-run lead screwed everything up, because “he’s not supposed to have run support” — a tongue-in-cheek reference to Texas’ offensive struggles.

There was still a chance even after Jungmann departed the game, as the Longhorns were behind just one run. Andrew McKirahan and Nathan Thornhill struggled in relief, combining to give up three runs. Kendal Carrillo’s performance was a bright spot, who went 1.1 innings without giving up a hit. But danger lurks in every spot of Florida’s powerful lineup, and Texas could not have afforded any pitching struggles.

“We played a below-average game against a very good team and they had the ability to capitalize on it and penalize us severely,” Garrido said.

The Longhorns scored four runs Saturday night, but three of them were flukes. The first two hitters of the third inning reached base on errors, and the team only had two hits in the inning. Florida’s starting pitcher Hudson Randall buckled down, at one point retiring 10 straight hitters.

“Once he got the lead back, he became more competitive and found his rhythm,” Garrido said. “He took charge of the game.”

Against a shirking strike zone, Randall was able to throw three different pitches for strikes.

“He’s been good all year. He throws a lot of strikes,” Brandon Loy said. “We hit some balls hard, it just didn’t go our way.”

Published on Monday, June 20, 2011 as: Bullpen's shortcomings push Horns to the edge