Apparently, lightning does only strike once.
The Texas Longhorns eliminated the UC Irvine Anteaters from the 2014 College World Series in dramatic fashion Wednesday when C.J. Hinojosa blasted the only home run we have seen in the entire event.
That's right, there has only been a single homer throughout the CWS, and it was just enough to push Texas past UC Irvine to the tune of 1-0.
Not to be overlooked was the incredible performance from pitcher Chad Hollingsworth.
The Texas hurler entered the game with a head-turning 1.36 ERA. Still, it was only his second start, so there was some concern that he would be outside of his normal element. All Hollingsworth did was turn in 8.1 innings of shutout baseball. He struck out five and only gave up four hits.
Coming into the contest, there was even more pressure than usual for a College World Series contest. Both teams were 1-1, and the loser would be sent home for good. Interestingly enough, Texas’ loss came at the hands of Irvine in the opener of the event.
As for the Anteaters, Evan Manarino drew the start. He only had 10 starts on the year and saw most of his recent action from the bullpen as well, including an appearance in the first game against Texas.
He and Hollingsworth may both be primarily bullpen pitchers, but they absolutely mowed down the respective opposing lineups in the beginning of the game.
The game was scoreless through six innings, and Hollingsworth and Manarino were dueling. Adam Winkler of CBS Austin was particularly impressed by the Longhorns starter:
UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie was likely frustrated with his offense early, but he did find some time to throw praise his pitcher’s way, via freelance writer Olivia Phelps:
Both teams only managed to scrape together a few hits throughout the first five innings, but it looked like Texas was finally going to break through in the sixth. Ben Johnson drilled a ball down the left field line with only one out and ended up standing at third. Finally, the Longhorns had something cooking.
Or so it seemed.
As ESPN U noted, UC Irvine appealed the play and changed the face of the entire game:
That momentum was short-lived for the Anteaters, though, because fans were treated to the rarest of sights at the College World Series—a home run. Hinojosa broke the scoreless tie in the top of the seventh inning, but it was notable for another reason, as Troy Machir of Sporting News pointed out:
C.J. Hinojosa just hit the first HR of the 2014 CWS. Longhorns up 1-0 on UC-Irvine in the 7th— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) June 19, 2014
Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman added more context to the blast:
Only his second HR of the season for C.J Hinojosa. I mean, if you've watched the #CWS games, you know how big a HR is here.— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) June 19, 2014
What was even more impressive than the fact that we actually saw a home run was its status as a no-doubter immediately off the bat. ESPN Stats & Info noted just how long it has been since there was a home run in Omaha:
C.J Hinojosa's HR snaps a streak of 115 straight innings without a HR at the College World Series— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2014
Manarino's day was over one batter later. He finished with 6.1 innings pitched, five hits, seven strike outs and the single run. He was the victim of bad luck over anything else because his offense failed to give him any support.
Evan Brock came in and was even more dominant than Manarino in relief. He kept the Anteaters in the game with his nasty stuff and didn't let Texas sniff a run in the late innings.
UC Irvine appeared to be in business in the bottom of the eighth when it got the leadoff batter aboard when Adam Alcantara was hit by a pitch. He was moved over into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but Hollingsworth shut the door once again.
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman provided commentary on the nerve-wracking action in the eighth:
Hollingsworth gets UCI's most dangerous hitter, Taylor Sparks, to pop up for second out.— kbohls (@kbohls) June 19, 2014
Hollingsworth retires Rapago, UCI's star of Game 1, on easy grounder to Hinojosa. Texas 3 outs from advancing to Final Four.— kbohls (@kbohls) June 19, 2014
Things got tense again in the bottom of the ninth when Connor Spencer led things off for the Anteaters with a single.
However, Spencer never got further than that, and Travis Duke came in to shut the door in the ninth. Duke retired the final two hitters of the game and preserved Hollingsworth's gem.
Texas picked up the do-or-die victory Wednesday, but the prize is a nearly impossible situation against mighty Vanderbilt.
Since the Commodores haven't lost yet in this double-elimination format, the Longhorns will have to win two games in a row to advance. UC Irvine already played Vanderbilt once and had a lead, but that was also short-lived. Perhaps Texas can get some advice from the team it just eliminated.
Gillespie felt that the matchup with Vanderbilt was closer than the 6-4 score indicated, via CBS Sports: "The score wasn't indicative of the difference between the two teams tonight. So we'll show up on Wednesday and try to give a better account of ourselves."
If the Anteaters can play with the Commodores, so can Texas. However, beating the powerhouse from the SEC twice in a row may be too much to ask.
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