OMAHA, Neb. -- Sophomore Chance Wheeless led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off home run to right field that snapped a 3-3 tie and gave No. 5 Texas a 4-3 victory over No. 4 Baylor in front of 27,452 fans at Rosenblatt Stadium during the semifinals of the 2005 College World Series (CWS) on Wednesday, June 22.
While No. 4 Baylor concludes its season with a 46-24 overall record following the UT win, the Longhorns (54-16) earn a berth in the 2005 CWS Championship Series against the winner of the Florida/Arizona State semifinal game on Thursday, June 23 at 6 p.m. Central. Notably, Texas qualifies for the championship series, which begins on Saturday, June 25 at 6 p.m. Central, for the second straight year and the third time in the last four seasons.
Following two scoreless innings to open the ballgame, the Bears opened the third with a base hit from Paul Witt, who moved to third on a sacrifice and a groundout, but UT starter Kenn Kasparek (Weimar, Texas) registered his second strikeout of the evening to work out of the early jam. In the bottom half of the inning, David Maroul (Benbrook, Texas) drew a leadoff walk before a groundout and a RBI-single from Nick Peoples (Round Rock, Texas) put the Longhorns on top 1-0. Baylor immediately tied the game in the top of the fourth at 1-1 as catcher Josh Ford connected on a leadoff home run. The Bears then threatened to grab the lead in the top of the fifth by placing two runners on with two outs via a pair of walks, but Kasparek again recorded a strikeout to keep the game deadlocked.
Texas regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Taylor Teagarden led off with his seventh round-tripper of the season to give the Longhorns a 2-1 advantage. Looking to answer right back in the top of the sixth, Ford led off with a walk, but when Kasparek fanned his sixth batter of the evening, Teagarden turned the out into a double play by catching Ford stealing to keep the Horns in front. In the seventh, Baylor got an infield hit from third baseman Kevin Russo followed by a three-base error on a sacrifice bunt to tie the game and place the go-ahead run on third with no outs. After a groundout to first, Kevin Sevigny came up with a pinch-hit, RBI-single to left to bring another run and give the Bears their first lead of the contest at 3-2.
One inning later in the bottom of the eighth, Peoples, who reached on a fielder's choice bunt, advanced to third on a two-base throwing error on a pickoff before scoring on a sac fly off the bat of Drew Stubbs (Atlanta, Texas) to knot the game at 3-3. In the ninth, Baylor put two runners on with one out behind a pair of walks before Witt lifted a shallow fly ball to center that Stubbs made a diving catch on and tried to turn the double play on by tossing the ball to second, but missed the cutoff. Wheeless, however, picked up the ball and flipped it to second to record the third out of the inning. Wheeless, who had re-jarred his right shoulder earlier in the game, then came to the plate to open the bottom of the ninth and sent a 1-1 pitch into the right-field grandstands for his fifth home run of the year to give the Longhorns a 4-3 victory. While J. Brent Cox, who made his CWS-record 11th appearance in Omaha, earned the victory behind 2.2 innings of scoreless relief, Bears' reliever Ryan LaMotta shouldered the hard-fought loss.
Four different Longhorns accounted for Texas' four hits on the evening with the trio of Peoples, Wheeless and Teagarden headlining the group by each collecting one hit, scoring one run and driving in another. Baylor, meanwhile, had its five-hit attack led by Ford, who went 1-for-3 with one run scored and one RBI, and Russo, who scored one run during a 1-for-2 effort. Additionally, Kasparek, who received a no-decision during his 12th start of the year, tied a career high for strikeouts with six over his 6.1 innings of work and Seth Johnston (Boerne, Texas) set the school single-season hit record (113) with his first-inning single.
Of note, the best-of-three championship series will run from Saturday, June 25 through Monday, June 27 and will be televised by ESPN. While Saturday's game is slated for 6 p.m. Central, Sunday's contest is set for 2 p.m. Central, and Monday's rubber match, if necessary, will be at 6 p.m. Central.
POSTGAME NOTES & QUOTES
· The Horns played in their NCAA-record 129th CWS game on June 22 and hold a 76-53 all-time record in Omaha including the most wins by any one team in CWS history.
· With a three double plays turned during the contest, the Longhorns own 77 double plays on the season which sets the school season record; passing the former mark of 76 established in 2002.
· Before allowing a run in the top of the fourth, the UT pitching staff had rattled off 17.1 consecutive scoreless innings during 2005 CWS action.
· With the victory, Texas will be playing in the CWS Championship Series for its second-straight year and third time in the past four seasons.
· Freshman pitcher Kenn Kasparek hurled 6.1 innings and struck out a career-tying best six during his 12th start of the season this evening.
· Senior shortstop Seth Johnston has hit safely in 59 of 70 games this season and owns 113 hits this year, which sets the school single-season hit record - previously held by Tim Moss (112 in 2002).
· Sophomore right fielder Nick Peoples owns hits in 15 of the last 16 games while batting .383 (23-for-60) with 19 runs scored and 11 RBI over that stretch.
· With 296 at bats and 170 total bases through 70 games, Seth Johnston also ranks fourth and sixth, respectively, on those UT single-season lists.
· In eight career CWS games, Seth Johnston is a combined 12-for-36 (.333) with eight runs scored, two doubles, a pair of home runs and 10 RBI to his credit.
· Senior designated hitter Will Crouch has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 contests and reached base safely in 11 of those tilts. He has also recorded multi-hit outings in seven of his last 11 games - a span during which he is batting .488 (20-for-41) with 12 runs scored, 11 RBI and two home runs.
· Junior closer J. Brent Cox made his 104th career pitching appearance against No. 4 Baylor on June 22 and is within one outing of matching former Longhorn Huston Street's school career record of 105. He also made his 11th CWS appearance setting the record in that category, previously held by Street (10).
· Sophomore center fielder Drew Stubbs has reached base safely in 64 of 70 games this year and has hit safely in 56 of those contests.
· With his fifth-inning home run, junior catcher Taylor Teagarden now owns a club-best four postseason home runs this year.
Head Coach Steve Smith
Opening statement: I'd like to congratulate Texas for advancing to the championship series. I'd like to congratulate Mike Anderson and Nebraska for the great year they had. It made this an exciting place to have Nebraska here. I thought it was a good collegiate baseball game. I was extremely pleased with Mark's (McCormick) effort on a three-day rest. Their guy - Kasparek - for a true freshman pitched beyond his years. I can't tell you how much I think of Taylor Teagarden. I'm very proud of our club. A year ago we didn't get in the tournament and lost 16 one-run games. I couldn't be more proud of them. Losing is always painful, no matter how it happens. It's painful only because of what you have invested in it.
About difference between Baylor's three regular-season wins vs. Texas and the CWS: One run. We beat them three times by one run. They beat us by one run today.
Baylor Left Fielder Reid Brees
About play in ninth inning: I saw the ball off the bat and (shortstop Seth) Johnston was on a dead sprint and (Drew) Stubbs was on a dead sprint in center field. I took a chance and it turned out it was the wrong decision.
Baylor Relief Pitcher Ryan LaMotta
About the home run pitch to Chance Wheeless: The pitch before it was a change up. It might have been the right pitch in the wrong location or the wrong pitch all together. Obviously it didn't turn out the way we wanted.
About whether he was distracted after a long ninth inning: I was fine. Not distracted at all with the play at the plate. I missed my spot and credit him for hitting it.
Baylor Catcher Josh Ford
About play at the plate: The umpire told me I interfered with the play. I thought the play was a lot closer than he thought it was.
About coming back to play after last night's emotional win: I thought we did a pretty good job of being ready to play. Anytime you lose a game in the bottom of the ninth it's hard - whether it's here or the second game of the season.
Baylor Starting Pitcher Mark McCormick
About his outing: My stuff was find. I don't mind pitching on three or four days rest. I could have gone seven or eight innings, but we had a game plan coming into the series for me to go 100 pitches and hand it over to (Ryan) LaMotta in the sixth inning.
Head Coach Augie Garrido
Opening statement: Baylor had a great year and that includes last night's victory. That was unbelievable. Tonight's run at winning the game was a fantastic, team effort. Defensively we opened the door for each other. Kenn did a great job as did McCormick.
On bringing J. Brent Cox into the game while trailing: I felt like we were going to score. J. Brent Cox is one of the great team guys on our team and I felt like the kids would rally around that. It was more important on the part of our kids to score because of what he was doing for them when he is in the game.
On any unfinished business from last year in getting back to Championship Series: Taylor said it best. This team has its own identity. It's not about a repeat. I let the players run the whole championship into one large tournament. It's easier when you start over. We'll start over tomorrow. We're in a best-of-three weekend series like it was in conference.
On Chance Wheeless' HR: When he hit that home run, I thanked him, I thanked his mother and father, their mother and father and everybody that had anything to do with him being on this planet.
First Baseman Chance Wheeless
On his HR while struggling with injury: It all turned around with one swing. I'm shocked a little bit. This is unbelievable for me.
Catcher Taylor Teagarden
On starting pitcher Kenn Kasparek: Kenn's been amazing. He started a lot of Tuesday games for us but with the lack of depth, I guess you'd say, with out pitching in the postseason he's made some big starts for us. Whether it's Baylor or Texas-Pan American he's going to give us his best start.
On getting back to Championship Series: For me as a person it's a sigh of relief being back in the same position this year. We weren't the No. 1 seed like last year and a lot of people didn't think we'd get out of Super Regionals. It really hit me about an hour ago that we have a chance to do something special again.
Starting Pitcher Kenn Kasparek
On getting the start: When I first found out I was pretty excited. My mindset was to take the start just like any other start. You've got to give credit to Baylor. They battled and battled until the end.