Dramatic Finish Lifts Texas Into CWS Finals

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

No matter what happens in the College World Series finals, it'll be tough for Texas to top this finish.

Connor Rowe hit a game-winning solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, moments after Cameron Rupp tied it with a homer of his own as the Longhorns came from behind to beat Arizona State 4-3 on Friday night.

Rowe sent a shot into the left-field seats, then sprinted around the bases with his helmet raised in his right hand as his celebrating teammates waited at home plate to greet him.

Two batters earlier, Rupp homered over the 22-foot wall in straightaway center field to tie it.

"The two home runs were about as dramatic as you can get," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "We struck out 12 times, so they did a great job of pitching. But they got some balls up and we ran into them, and that changed the game. I feel blessed about it."

So now a Texas team that won its first game on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth and its second game after rallying from six runs down will move to the CWS best-of-three championship series starting Monday against LSU. The Longhorns will try to become the first No. 1 national seed to win the title since Miami in 1999.

"They did a wonderful job of hitting in the clutch at the end," Arizona State coach Pat Murphy said. "It was a great game for college baseball. We're sorry we're going home."

Rowe, who batted in the No. 9 spot, hit the first walkoff homer in Omaha since Texas' Chance Wheeless did it in a win over Baylor in 2005.

It looked as if the Sun Devils (51-14) would force a Saturday rematch for the Bracket 2 championship after they took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth on Zach Wilson's RBI triple.

Mitchell Lambson (9-5) struck out Brandon Loy to start the bottom of the ninth, but Rupp tied it with a homer that carried at least 420 feet, one of the longest in recent CWS memory.

"When I hit it," Rupp said, "I knew it was gone."

After Preston Clark popped out, Rowe hit the first offering from Lambson over the left-field wall, well above the leaping Kole Calhoun.

"As time passes, this is probably going to be a game to watch on TV and recap and say I was glad to be a part of it," Calhoun said. "But right now, this one hurts."

Rowe said he wasn't necessarily trying to hit a home run off Lambson, who had gotten him out in their two previous CWS encounters.

"Every time, he kept throwing me a changeup," Rowe said. "I didn't see one fastball from him. I was sitting on a changeup."

Austin Wood (6-1) got the win after throwing three innings in relief of starter Cole Green. But it didn't look so good for Wood in the top of the ninth.

The senior struck out four of the first six batters he faced before Jason Kipnis battled through an 11-pitch at-bat. Kipnis' hard shot got past first baseman Brandon Belt, but second baseman Travis Tucker came up with the ball and threw wildly to Wood, who was covering first. Kipnis took off for second as Rupp, the catcher, scrambled for the ball next to the top step of the ASU dugout.

"I was determined to get on base," Kipnis said. "I stepped out of the box and took a breath and said, 'If you're going out, you're going out on base.' The ones I thought were borderline, I fouled off. I finally put it in play, put my head down and ran and got to second."

Clark got a bad break on Carlos Ramirez's hard line, but made a nice recovery to catch it. Wood then struck out ASU's hottest hitter, Calhoun. Wilson, who entered as a pinch hitter in the seventh, hooked a 1-0 pitch into the right-field corner past a diving Kevin Keyes to score Kipnis. It was Wilson's first RBI since May 10.

Starters Mike Leake of Arizona State and Texas' Green each went six innings, giving up two runs on eight hits, before turning the game over to the bullpen with the score tied at 2.

Lambson allowed Calhoun's single leading off the seventh, then retired six in a row before his disastrous ninth inning.

Texas returns to the CWS finals for the first time since 2005, when the Longhorns won the last of their six national championships.

The Longhorns' bid for a seventh title has featured a little bit of everything, from comeback wins to a 25-inning regional victory that ranked as the longest game in NCAA history.

Then there's the quirky wins here in Omaha.

"Whether we're a team of destiny," Wood said, "that's still to be determined."

Texas advanced to the CWS best-of-three finals starting Monday against LSU.


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