Last Sunday in Omaha seems like ages ago in the eyes of Texas.
In their opener at the College World Series, the Longhorns fell flat 2-1 against the superb pitching of Will Bednar and Mississippi State. The Texas batting order was demoralized to the tune of 21 strikeouts on the night, a CWS record. One more loss would be sending them back to Austin.
Now a little under a week later, the burnt orange is one win away from their first CWS final appearance since 2009.
And without the instrumental pitching work by Ty Madden on Friday night, things may look a lot different.
"Ty Madden was Ty Madden," Pierce said into the early hours of Saturday morning. "He was outstanding."
The Longhorns (50-17) entered Friday with their season on the line. A win would force a winner-take-all elimination game for a chance to take on the defending champion Vanderbilt Commodores.
So Pierce trusted his star pitcher to take them there — and thank goodness he did.
In what was potentially his final game as a Longhorn, Madden left everything out on the mound. A ninth-inning three-run homer by Texas' Ivan Melendez would seal the Bulldogs' fate for good with an 8-5 win.
Two of the first three Bulldog hitters that Madden faced managed to snag a hit, including an RBI from Kamren James to tie the game. After another walk and a RBI by Logan Tanner, gave Mississippi State the lead.
With only one out and two RISP, Texas pitching coach Sean Allen made the long dreadful walk to the mound to chat with his ace. Meanwhile, Texas No. 2 Tristan Stevens made his way to the bullpen.
This notion was put to a grinding halt, as Texas forced a double play to survive the inning. There was still plenty of baseball to be played.
After the Horns tied the game in the top of the second, the wheels started turning for Madden, as the Cypress, native went to work. Two straight strikeouts were followed by a base-hit, but Texas quickly retired the sides on a popout from Rowdey Jordan.
Madden was nearly perfect in the innings that followed. He was mixing in his smooth slider to go along with a fastball that was consistently reaching 93 mph on the night.
Bulldog batters were swinging late or reaching on throws away from the plate.
On a stretch from the third to the sixth inning, the sophomore star had retired nine of the 10 Bulldog batters he faced while allowing no hits and only 2 walks.
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With Texas freshman Tanner Witt warming up in the bullpen, it seemed that Madden's night was coming to a close.
"He's been good, he had a shaky start," Pierce said during a fifth-inning interview with ESPN. "But we're gonna allow him to go out there and empty the tank. We know what we can get from him because of his mentality."
After Madden nearly hit Scotty Dubrule with a high-fastball with RISP for the Bulldogs, Pierce made the trip out to the mound, as the pitching change was inevitable.
The conversation was a quick one.
"I got you, I got him,"
Pierce kept him in, and Madden retired the sides to maintain a 3-2 Texas lead. Freshman Tanner Witt came in for relief, as Madden finished the night with eight strikeouts, three walks, and four hits over six innings.
The disastrous first inning was in the rear-view mirror.
Witt allowed the Bulldogs to claw back with four walks and an RBI single from Brad Cumbest to tie it at 5-all. Two pitchers and a drive to left-center field in the next frame, the Horns would lead by three.
Then came the rain and the wait. Madden sat with his teammates, waiting to see if Texas would be back tomorrow.
Two hours and 46 minutes later, closer Aaron Nixon would pick things back up in the ninth, sealing the victory and putting Texas in the driver's seat.
If not for a bounce-back performance from Madden after the first inning, Texas might be contemplating a season that could've been.
The Longhorns are now one win away from a CWS final matchup with Vanderbilt, as the Commodores advanced due to health and safety violations from N.C State.
Madden will wait, but his impact with the Horns won't see be forgotten to those on the Forty Acres.
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