OMAHA, Neb. -- Redshirt freshman Adrian Alaniz allowed only two runs on three hits over seven strong innings and J. Brent Cox hurled two shutout frames to lead No. 5 Texas to a 4-2 win over No. 6 Florida in front of 25,958 fans at Rosenblatt Stadium during the opening game of the 2005 CWS Championship Series on Saturday, June 25.
With the victory, the Longhorns (55-16) take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three championship series with the Gators (48-22), which resumes on Sunday, June 26 with a 2 p.m. Central first pitch. Of note, the game will be televised on ESPN.
Texas jumped in front 1-0 in the top of the first as Nick Peoples (Round Rock, Texas) drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a sacrifice and scored from third on a two-out double off the bat of Will Crouch (Austin, Texas). Florida looked to answer in the bottom of the second by placing runners on first and second with one down via a leadoff single from catcher Brian Jeroloman and a walk, but Alaniz (Sinton, Texas) induced his second double play in as many innings to end the threat. Then, with two outs in the top of the third and the bases empty, Crouch connected on his seventh home run of the season to stake the Horns to an early 2-0 advantage. One inning later in the fourth, with Chance Wheeless (Round Rock, Texas) on first after a single, David Maroul (Benbrook, Texas) came through with a home run to left to give UT a 4-0 lead.
The Gators would again challenge the lead in the bottom of the sixth when first baseman Matt LaPorta doubled with two outs, but Alaniz again worked out of the jam by getting his next batter to line out to right field and end the frame. Meanwhile, Florida reliever Connor Falkenbach, who entered the game in the fifth, scattered three hits over 3.2 scoreless innings to hold the Horns in check. An inning later, the Gators used an infield, bunt single from shortstop Justin Tordi, a walk and two passed balls to place runners on second and third with no outs. Cox (Bay City, Texas), who came on for Alaniz after the walk, then got consecutive strikeouts before LaPorta delivered a two-out, two-run single to cut the UT lead in half at 4-2. Following two back-to-back walks to load the bases, Cox registered his third strikeout of the inning to keep Texas on top by two. After a 1-2-3 top of the ninth for the Horns, Cox came out in the bottom half of the frame and struck out the side to register his 18th save of the season and first-ever in CWS action. In terms of the pitching decision, Alaniz picked up his eighth win of the year after striking out five over seven innings, while Florida starter Stephen Locke incurred the loss.
Headlining the UT offense on the evening was the duo of Crouch and Maroul, who each went 3-for-4 with two RBI, one home run and one run scored apiece on the evening. On the other side of the ledger, the Gators were led by LaPorta, who tallied two hits and drove in both Florida runs.
POSTGAME NOTES & QUOTES
· Texas is playing in the CWS Championship Series for its second-straight year and the third time in the last four seasons. UT has also finished first (2002), second (2004) and tied for third (2003) nationally in the past three seasons while reaching Omaha four consecutive times, including this year.
· With double plays in each of the first two innings on June 25, the Longhorns upped their school season record for double plays to 79.
· With a pair of two-out runs, UT has plated 187 of its 464 runs to date with two away (40%).
· The Horns played in their NCAA-record 130th CWS game on June 25 and hold a 77-53 all-time record in Omaha including the most wins by any one team in CWS history.
· Notably, Texas pitchers have allowed only five earned runs over 36 innings of work in Omaha to date for a team ERA of 1.25.
· Senior designated hitter Will Crouch has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 contests and reached base safely in 12 of those tilts. He has also recorded multi-hit outings in eight of his last 12 games - a span during which he is batting .511 (23-for-45) with 13 runs scored, 13 RBI and three home runs.
· Sophomore first baseman Chance Wheeless has hit safely in 14 of the last 15 games and is batting .400 (24-for-60) with 13 runs scored, a pair of home runs and 11 RBI to his credit over that stretch.
· Senior shortstop Seth Johnston, who now boasts a school-record 114 hits this season after hitting safely in 60 of 71 games this year, needs three more at bats in 2005 to surpass UT's current single-season mark of 302 set by Tim Moss in 2002. He also owns a team-best 171 total bases to his credit, which ranks sixth on the school season chart - 28 total bases behind Scott Bryant's 1989 record of 199.
· In nine career CWS games, Seth Johnston is a combined 13-for-40 (.325) with eight runs scored, two doubles, a pair of home runs and 10 RBI to his credit.
· Junior closer J. Brent Cox made his 105th career pitching appearance on June 25 to tie former Longhorn Huston Street's school career record of 105. He has also now made 12 CWS appearances during his three-year career, which is a series record. Notably, during his career in Omaha, Cox owns a 2-1 record to go along with a 2.70 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 23.1 innings of work.
· With his first career CWS save tonight, J. Brent Cox now also leads the nation with 18 saves on the season and is one shy of matching the school single-season saves record of 19 set by Charlie Thames in 2000.
· Center fielder Drew Stubbs has reached base safely in 64 of 71 games and hit safely in 56 of those contests.
· Senior Clayton Stewart and junior J. Brent Cox each need only one more appearance this year to tie the UT single-season appearance record of 42 set by Charlie Thames in 2000.
· Right fielder Nick Peoples owns hits in 15 of the last 17 games while batting .359 (23-for-64) with 20 runs scored and 11 RBI over that stretch.
Head Coach Pat McMahon
Opening statement: I'm awfully proud of our guys. They played extremely hard for 27 outs. They competed their hearts out. What an exciting environment to play in. What a great arena. We have an opportunity to come back and compete tomorrow and by gosh we will.
On starting pitcher Steven Locke's performance: I'm very proud of Steven. He grew up a lot and got better tonight. Steven Locke was a guy we wanted on the mound and our team wanted him on the mound.
Starting pitcher Steven Locke
On getting the start: I knew it was going to be a last-second choice. I wasn't nervous because I've been thrown in there before.
Relief pitcher Connor Falkenbach
On his availability Sunday: I'm ready to go right now. Give me the ball and I'll be ready. I want to do what I can to get us a win.
First baseman Matt LaPorta
On the team's approach at the plate: Our approach could've been a little better. I, for one, was probably trying to do too much with one swing of the bat and you can't do that.
On possibly rattling J. Brent Cox in the 8th inning: He's probably the best closer in the country and it probably doesn't faze him too much with guys on at second and third. We were battling; it just didn't come out our way.
On Brian Leclerc's AB in the 8th: We always feel that when he steps to the plate, something good is going to happen. He didn't get it done tonight but he tried his hardest. That's baseball; that's just the way it goes sometimes.
Head Coach Augie Garrido
Opening statement: I thought both teams showed their nerves early on and they showed it on defense. I thought we did a good job of capitalizing on pitches in the zone. I thought the rally was an effective one. They got the first two hitters on in the eighth. They moved up and with two outs, their star player does what star players do, and gets the clutch hit and scores two runs. I thought J. Brent did a remarkable job coming out and pitching in the 9th. He took none of the negatives from the last inning into the ninth.
About Will Crouch's hitting lately: It's the kind of thing quality players do. If you're going to be a quality team, it shifts around. It's not just one player. It's not something new to him. He's seen it before.
About wanting a win tomorrow: Baseball has never given me what I wanted. Whenever I've personalized a game for my own reasons, we stink. We're just going to play the game.
Relief Pitcher J. Brent Cox
About his effort: I knew I had to get it done one way or the other. The strikeouts were a blessing. I was just looking for ground outs.
About 8th inning: Looking back the first outing at Ole Miss was a blessing. Certainly not then, but now. Playing in that type of atmosphere and to have things not go your way, it helped.
Designated Hitter Will Crouch
About his hot hitting: I'm feeling great. I'm seeing the ball well. Hitting is all confidence. I'm staying relaxed. It all comes down to seeing the ball.
About the pitches he hit tonight: The three balls I hit tonight were up in the zone so they were mistakes from a pitcher's perspective.
Starting Pitcher Adrian Alaniz
About his effort: For one thing the blister wasn't a factor. It's healed in the last couple of days. Going into the game having pitched the one game vs. Baylor helped me. It was like a zone with Taylor - like I had tunnel vision. Getting one run on the board early set confidence for me.
About 8th inning: It was not what I expected to happen. The bunt single. I thought I could have made the play. Tough luck. Another guy walked. It started a rally. That's why we have J. Brent in the bullpen.