Before going to bat, Texas outfielder Eric Kennedy waited in the on-deck circle for his turn. When Silas Ardoin reached first with an infield single, Kennedy told Mike Antico that it was time to go home.
Time to end it right now.
The Texas crowd sat in silence following a game-tying home run from South Florida in the ninth inning. Less than five minutes later, UFCU Disch-Falk Field erupted with an explosion of delight.
"This is the reason you play college baseball," Kennedy said Saturday evening. "The experiences and moments like this. This is the kind of moment you dream of as a little kid. As I was walking up to the plate I was like, 'you're born for this. This is what you're made for.'"
Kennedy said that when looking at the scouting report, South Florida's Brad Lord read fastball and then slider. Knowing that Lord was winning with heat, Kennedy wanted to be ahead for the pitch.
A deep drive to center field over Bulls' Roberto Peña's head allowed Ardoin to turn on the jets and score. Kennedy's walk-off heroics secured the 4-3 win in the Austin Super Regionals, but also brought the fire back to the Longhorns’ offense.
"That's playoff baseball right there," Texas coach David Pierce said postgame. "I mean, what more do you say right there?"
No one wanted to see Texas in a position where they could be fighting for its season, but baseball can be a cruel game. Tanner Witt was in control as the ninth inning approached. South Florida's Daniel Cantu led things off with a homer, making it 3-1.
With two outs a runner on second, USF's Drew Brutcher clobbered a full-count fastball over right field, tying the game and giving the Bulls momentum.
Kennedy said the message in the dugout? Don't panic.
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"Tulo's [witzki] like 'this is just what we wanted. We don't want it to be easy,'" Kennedy said. "This is why you play postseason baseball and play in front of crowds and in games like this."
Kennedy's contributions were more than just a double to seal the win. In the second inning, a reviewed play from the booth showed that Kennedy was safe at first to keep the frame alive. Antico would drive him in with a double to make it 2-0 on the next at-bat.
Kennedy later made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. At the time, that seemed to be enough to give Longhorns' starting pitcher Ty Madden a win in what could be his final game at The Disch.
Instead, they needed the extra fireworks to send Austin ablaze into the early Sunday morning.
Of course, Kennedy had to hold his breath while watching Ardoin round third and sprint for home.
"In the back of my mind, I was like, 'why do we have Silas running here. Can't we have a pinch-runner or something?'" Kennedy said. "I was a little nervous, but I know he was busting it and going for it no matter what."
The Longhorns return for Game 2 of the Austin Super Regional at 8 p.m. Sunday. Right-hander Tristan Stevens is expected to start.
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