Ruffin, 'adrenaline' fuel Baseball
June 5, 2010
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Chance Ruffin claims to not remember the celebration shuffle that carried him into the Texas dugout at the end of the eighth inning, and that's probably a good thing.
It was part fist pump, part two-step and 100 percent emotion. It was also ugly.
Head coach Augie Garrido loved every second of it.
"You know how excited he was? I was more excited," Garrido said. "That game was huge."
The third-ranked Longhorns prevailed 4-2 against Louisiana at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, vaulting themselves into Sunday's regional championship contest, and Ruffin was the force behind the victory.
He entered in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-run lead, inherited two base runners and then quickly found himself with the bases loaded and zero outs. By time Ruffin sashayed off the field, he had allowed only one run to cross, and fooled two Louisiana batters with a pair of nasty curveballs for strikeouts.
All told, Ruffin threw two innings, fanned five and allowed just one hit. His nation-leading ERA now stands at 0.75.
"It's a great situation to be in - it's a lot of fun to have that opportunity," Ruffin said. "I was in the game, in the moment. That was probably the most pumped up I've been all season."
And that's saying something. For the Longhorns, Ruffin has been nothing but fiery and competitive since he took over as closer at the season's outset. It was a physical and mental transition for the 6-foot-1 junior, and Ruffin says a 3.2 inning effort against Stanford on Feb. 27 helped his confidence in such a critical position.
In his longest outing of the year, Ruffin struck out four Cardinal batters and allowed just one hit in UT's 6-3 win. It marked Ruffin's first save of the season, and was the tipping point. With his rally against Louisiana, Ruffin now has 14 saves on the year -- a UT single-season mark that stands fifth all-time.
"Your team goes out and works hard for eight innings, you can't be the one to come in and give it all away in one inning," Ruffin said. "I use the fans, their energy -- I'll use everything I've got to leave it all out there and keep runs off the board."
When Ruffin entered in the bottom of the eighth inning, Louisiana already had runners on first and second, and a bunt single by leadoff hitter Kyle Olasin loaded the bases. Matt Goulas then lined an 0-1 pitch to left field for a sacrifice fly that brought Louisiana to within 3-2 and loaded the bases with only one out.
The tension was high, and Ruffin thrived in the moment. Against the both Jordan Poirrier and Chad Keefer, the three and four hitters for Louisiana, Ruffin jumped ahead in the count 1-2. First he fooled Poirrier with a curveball for a called strike three, and virtually replicated the at-bat against Keefer.
The sellout crowd erupted, and so did Ruffin. A swarm of teammates greeted him outside the dugout, and Ruffin greeted them with shouts and chest bumps.
"For him to pitch in support of his teammates the way he did, and respond to the crisis situation we were in, and minimize that damage is critical," Garrido said.
It's something the Longhorns have appreciated about Ruffin throughout the season. His five strikeouts against Louisiana improved his NCAA-leading strikeouts per-nine innings pitched average to 14.02, a mark that ranks second on the UT single-season charts behind Burt Hooton's 14.15 average from 1971.
"Their kid (Ruffin) came in and minimized the damage. He came in, traded a run for an out and then squashed the inning," Louisiana coach Tony Robichaux said. "The big thing is, you have to keep out of the adrenaline. They used their adrenaline."