On most nights, Ty Madden would walk off the mound feeling proud. A performance like his in Omaha, Neb. Sunday evening is one that usually picks up the victory.
But again, most nights aren't every night — and one inning decided Texas' status in the College World Series after the opening round.
One bad frame led to a 2-0 lead, and an eventual 2-1 win for the Mississippi State in Bracket 2. Texas (47-16) now fights to remain alive Tuesday in a must-win game against No. 3 Tennessee.
"I think everybody knows it was frustrating," Madden said. "But on to the next day. Just take things one day at a time and one pitch at a time.”
Call it a few bad pitches if you will for Madden. That's the difference between a no-decision and a loss in what could be his final game in a Texas uniform. Through the first three frames, the Longhorns' ace looked in control.
Then came the fourth inning, where those several pitches led to the lone scores on Madden's hand.
A walk to Kamren James and a single from Bulldogs' (46-16) Luke Hancock would put runners at the corners. Madden would strike out Logan Tanner before a sacrifice fly from Scotty Dubrule plated one.
On the next at-bat, Brad Cumbest would perfectly place a ball down the line in right field. Douglas Hodo III would just miss it, watching the hit dribble towards the side of TD Ameritrade Park as Hancock turned on the jets.
After review, the ball remained in play and Cumbest was standing at third. It was Madden's lone mistake on the night.
"I think the wind was even stronger above the stadium than any of us could have imagined," Texas coach David Pierce said. "It was a perfect night to hit some pop-ups for sure but in a very unusual score, a 2-1 game, the way the wind was howling, it was very unusual for here."
The Longhorns' batters did little to help Madden’s overall top-notch outing. Of course, having the Bulldogs' ace Will Bednar to start isn't going to help even the best hitters.
Bednar, a projected first-round pick in the MLB Draft next month, delivered the outing of the weekend. Through six innings, he was near flawless. A walk to Zach Zubia, a hit-by-pitch to Eric Kennedy, and a single to Mitch Daly was all he allowed.
In the process, he struck out 15 Longhorns, with each player adding a K to their line through seven innings of work. Only Kennedy didn’t strikeout multiple times for Texas.
The Bulldogs bullpen kept things going with Landon Sims, who struck out an additional six to bring the total strikeouts to 21.
"Bendar, still haven't figured him out," Pierce said. "He's a spin-rate guy and the ball just doesn't lose plane and it just seems like we were swinging underneath it the entire game."
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"And Sims is Sims. We expected that."
Madden left after the seventh inning following a strikeout to Kellum Clark before Silas Ardoin finished the frame with a throw down to second to catch Dubrule stealing. The redshirt sophomore finished the night with 105 pitches, allowing four total hits, two walks while striking out 10.
Pierce said after the game that Ardoin's defense gave the Longhorns momentum to rebound and recover, although the bats remained quiet until it felt too late.
"Si made two big-time throws, actually three," Pierce said. "It just gives you a fresh breath and it allows Ty to get back to the dugout and catch his breath without using extra pitches."
Mike Antico drilled a solo home run off Sims to begin the ninth, cutting the lead to one. Back-to-back singles from Ivan Melendez and Cam Williams put runners at the corners, but Hodo grounded out to secure the win.
“I understand they’re frustrated and feel like they let their teammates down,” Pierce said. “But my biggest message is, these guys have been together from Day 1. Twenty-seven guys on the field just fighting every single day together, having fun together.”
Madden now must wait. Tennessee, a top-three team coming off a disappointing loss to Virginia, won’t be easy to face. Both teams were projected to battle it out for the chance to represent Bracket 2 in the finals.
One will exit Omaha early instead.
Madden hopes his Longhorn career ends with another shot at the title. One inning defined the night and Madden leaves the mound wondering what could have been.
In baseball, one pitch can decide the game. For Madden, consider it four that now leaves Texas' hopes for its first title since 2005 in the balance of Tristan Stevens, the bullpen, and a better hitting streak.
"Just keep believing in us," Madden said. "We've done it all year, we've done it in multiple ways. Yeah, like I said, this team's not done and we're gonna keep rolling. I still have faith in us and y'all should as well."
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