Four Longhorns were drafted in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, and they have all signed with their new professional teams.
Hoby Milner, Jonathan Walsh and Sam Stafford -- who was drafted in the second round last year by the Yankees, failed to sign because of shoulder problems then missed his would-be senior season because of said problems -- each decided to forgo their last college season. Austin Dicharry, whose collegiate career was marred by injuries, was rather lucky to be drafted by the Nationals in the 24th round.
Milner, drafted in the sixth round by the Phillies, was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in one short season with Williamsport in the New York-Pennsylvania League. Milner, who projects as a reliever, struck out seven and walked two in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He's since progressed to Class-A Lakewood, where he yielded four earned in one start -- resulting in an ERA of 12.00.
The Los Angeles Angels nabbed Walsh in the 11th round, and while it wasn't easy to pass up his final season, the outfielder knew he had to take the money while he could.
"I love Texas, but it was time for me to go, with how the draft works," Walsh said via text.
Walsh saw teammates Cole Green and Kevin Lusson turn down professional offers after their junior seasons, only to see their draft slot drop a year later. Green turned down a $300,000 signing bonus from the Detroit Tigers in 2010. He was picked five rounds later in 2011, a big drop-off in money. Lusson went undrafted this past June.
Through 13 games with the Orem Owlz in short-season rookie ball, Walsh is hitting .244 with two homers. In 50 games with the Longhorns as a junior, Walsh hit six home runs.
"I started out hot, but had a tough last week," Walsh said. "But I'm loving [not having to hit at Disch-Falk Field] for sure."
Stafford hasn't recorded any Minor League stats, as he's still rehabbing from season-ending shoulder surgery. It's a pleasant surprise that he was drafted in the 13th round by the Rangers, despite missing a full season and having a shoulder complication previously red-flagged so much by the Yankees that they couldn't agree to terms.
If Stafford can get healthy and then pitch to his capabilities, it wouldn't surprise anybody within the Texas program one bit if he becomes a top-three starter. He's left-handed, which is a plus, and he has such dynamic stuff -- which at times was better than Taylor Jungmann's in 2011.
Dicharry, a senior, actually improved his draft stock between this year and last. The Phillies took a flier on Dicharry in the 41st round in '11, as he pitched just one inning because of nagging shoulder injury. He made some money this season with a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings pitched.
In three relief appearances with the Nationals rookie squad in the Gulf Coast League, Dicharry has allowed one earned run on two hits in five innings pitched, with five strikeouts.
The Longhorns just finished up the Austin Regional, beating Kent State 5-0 in the elimination game to advance to the Super Regional, which will be held in Austin. Arizona State will be the upcoming opponent, but there’s all week to talk about how Texas matches up with the Sun Devils. For now, let’s close the book on a wild and crazy weekend of baseball.
Personally, I think the snub of Sam Stafford is the biggest complaint with the All-Tournament team. On my ballot, I had Stafford as the MOP. In two games, the junior left-hander started twice, pitching 10.2 combined innings of one-run ball. If it wasn’t for his gutsy effort Monday against Kent State, I’m not so sure the Longhorns would have won, as they really had nobody else who could have effectively started and lasted three or four innings.
Inside Augie’s Mind
I’ve transcribed head coach Augie Garrido’s comments from today’s post-game press conference, in which he explained how he worked all six pitchers in the game.
“The way that their lineup breaks down, they have more lefts than rights. We were trying to get Sam Stafford [a left-hander] through the top of the order twice, and that’s what we did. We felt if he did that, he had done his job. Then the numbers added up and we made switches from there. Depending on if it was a momentum-shifting moment or not, which it was when we brought him in, we were bringing in Milner. If we had had five or six runs, we would have put in Andrew McKirahan. Either way, we wanted to throw a lefty. When the lineup turns over to righties, we would have taken them out for Carrillo, if there were runners on base, or Nathan Thornhill, if it was a clean inning.
Cole Green and Taylor Jungmann committed to an inning, so we could work backwards from Corey Knebel. We thought he could throw two innings if we needed him to. He didn’t, because Sam went farther than we had thought he would. So what that did is put Knebel into one, so we were able to pitch Cole and Jungmann one inning each. Between Cole and Jungmann, Jungmann is more effective against left-handed hitters than Cole is. That’s how we staggered the pitching changes.”
Impressions of Kent State
Color me impressed with the quality of play that the three-seed Golden Flashes brought to this regional. They gave the Longhorns all they wanted and more. Head coach Scott Stricklin made it a point to acknowledge how well the Austin crowd treated his team.
“I want to say how much we enjoyed our week here in Austin. This is the fourth regional that we’ve been to in the last five years and I can say that it’s done right here. The fans were unbelievable. They got on us but they got on us the right way. They cheered for their team. They cheered for our players when they made good plays. That’s the first thing our kids were talking about last night how good the fans are here and how good the people are. That’s the first thing I want to say, how much we enjoyed our stay here in Austin.”
While his coach was a class act, I’m not sure Kent State pitcher Andrew Chafin made any friends this weekend. I’m not talking about the gem he twirled against the Longhorns on Saturday night.
On Sunday, Chafin and his teammates were walking across the field into the dugout a few hours before the game began, and Chafin looked up at the press box and dragged his pointer finger across his neck — the “throat slash.” Not sure what he’s got against a bunch of guys with laptops and tape recorders.
Lusson goes long
Kevin Lusson has got to be the story of the weekend. The junior designated hitter, who came into the regional hitting .190, had quite a series. Saturday night, he hit a ninth-inning, three-run home run against Kent State that brought the Longhorns within two. The momentum carried over Sunday when Lusson, with a runner on third, slapped the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth against the Bobcats. The ball hopped over the right field wall. In any other case, it would have been a ground-rule double, but in walk-off situations, nothing else counts once the winning run crosses the plate.
In the nightcap, he launched another bomb over the right-field wall to distance Texas’ lead against Kent State in a must-win game.
Omaha — the Mecca of college baseball, the site of the College World Series and the expected destination for Longhorn baseball teams every year.
Behind pitchers like Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green, hitters like Brandon Loy and Tant Shepherd, and the all-time winningest coach in college baseball history, Texas reached the College World Series for the 34th time last season, a Division I record. Longhorns skipper Augie Garrido is back for his 16th year on the 40 Acres but Jungmann, Green, Loy and Shepherd are all pursuing professional baseball careers.
Without any of its starting pitchers from a year ago and after losing three of its top four hitters, Texas could have a tough time getting back to Omaha.
“I do know that we’ve gone to Omaha with less talent than we have right now,” Garrido said. “But talent doesn’t get you to Omaha, quite honestly. It’s part of it, but it’s not even the most important. Attitude and teamwork are the most important parts.”
Last year marked the seventh time since Garrido took over as the Texas head coach in 1997 that he took the Longhorns to the College World Series. It was Garrido’s pitching staff, one that boasted the nation’s second-lowest ERA a year ago, that carried Texas to Omaha. The Longhorns bring back Corey Knebel, who tied a school record with 19 saves as a freshman in 2011, but will have three new starting pitchers in their rotation — sophomore Nathan Thornhill, junior Hoby Milner and freshman John Curtiss — after Sam Stafford, who was expected to be Texas’ ace, went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.
“You can’t replace a guy like Taylor. You can’t replace a guy like Cole or Sam,” said Thornhill, who will start the season opener against Duke on Friday. “We definitely have a lot of young guys who know how to throw strikes and aren’t afraid to throw strikes, which is a huge deal. We’ve got a lot of guys who are ready to challenge hitters, whether they’re a freshman or senior.”
While the guys Texas was sending to the mound were mowing down the competition, the players in the Longhorns’ lineup didn’t fare as well. Texas posted a team batting average of .269, the third-lowest in the Big 12 and the 224th-best in the country, last season. The Longhorns lost three members of that lineup, including Shepherd and Loy, who were two of their three batters that hit better than .300 last season. Texas’ lineup this year should feature many underclassmen, especially after junior center fielder Cohl Walla suffered a torn ACL during the offseason.
“I think we have some good chances [to get to the College World Series],” said Erich Weiss, who led the team with a .348 batting average in 2011. “There might be a few [different] lineups after the first week going into the second week. Hopefully after that we can get it settled.”
Whether the Longhorns’ lineup, rotation or bullpen will be good enough to get them back to Omaha remains to be seen. Texas is a relatively inexperienced squad but knows what it takes to get there.
“We have enough talent on the pitching staff, we’re going to be able to play defense at a high enough level, and we’re going to be able to play offense at a higher level than we did last year,” Garrido said. “It’s about the fundamentals of the game. If we can master the fundamentals of the game, accept the roles that each player has in teamwork and maintain the right attitude, anything can happen. That’s the beauty of it.”
Texas pitchers Corey Knebel, left, and Nathan Thornhill walk off the field following a 3-0 loss to North Carolina that eliminated the Longhorns from the College World Series.
Cole Green struggled for Texas and Ben Bunting went 4-for-5 for North Carolina as the Tar Heels beat the Longhorns 3-0 to eliminate them from the College World Series on Monday. Freshman Kent Emanuel pitched a complete game for Carolina.
“We’re disappointed,” said junior shortstop Brandon Loy. “We didn’t come here to be the first team to leave.”
Green surrendered five hits in just two innings and didn’t look like the pitcher that staved off elimination for the Longhorns before.
“I was leaving the ball up a little bit early in the game,” Green said. “Any time I made a mistake, they took advantage of it.”
Chaz Frank and Bunting began the third inning with consecutive singles to end Green’s day after 40 pitches. Hoby Milner entered for Texas and struck the next two Tar Heels out, then issued a walk to load the bases. Jacob Stallings followed with a two-RBI single to center field to give North Carolina all the run support it needed. The Longhorns walked six batters, while Carolina only walked one.
“It was a brilliantly pitched game by their pitcher,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “We had a couple of opportunities but they were limited.”
Emanuel surrendered only four hits to Texas, none of them for extra bases. Mark Payton was the only Longhorn to get into scoring position, but got tagged out on a double play fly out. Jonathan Walsh was also doubled up on a lineout to left field.
“Both were judgment plays in which we were being aggressive and it ended up being the wrong decision because of North Carolina’s athleticism,” Garrido said.
Emanuel had success with differentiating his pitches at the beginning of counts, and he made Texas work during every at-bat. The Longhorns had several double-digit pitch counts, but were unable to capitalize.
“We battled hard at the plate and we competed in the game, as was exemplified by the number of at-bats where we fouled off multiple pitches,” Garrido said.
The Tar Heels tacked on another run in the ninth inning for insurance on a two-out double by Bunting. The center fielder also scored in the game. North Carolina head coach Mike Fox said he flipped a coin to decidte to have Bunting hit in the two spot for the Tar Heels.
“The best we could have done today against that pitcher is tied for some more inning unless we scored somewhere along the line,” Garrido said. “I don’t think that stood in the way of our scoring because we only had four hits. I don’t think it was something where he was so overpowering and so overwhelming we were miss-swinging or confused or lacked confidence.”
North Carolina senior center fielder Ben Bunting gets a hit Saturday against Vanderbilt.
Texas faces elimination for the 10th time this postseason today against North Carolina in the College World Series.
The Longhorns are 8-1 (including the Big 12 tournament) with their backs against the wall, but know they have a long road out of their bracket ahead of them; the first stop of which is against the Tar Heels.
“We can’t look ahead. We’ve got to focus on North Carolina and move on from there,” said shortstop Brandon Loy. “It’s a tough situation we’re in, but we’ve been in these situations the last couple of weeks, and this team is built
The Longhorns know they didn’t play their best against Florida, and will look to limit their mistakes against the Tar Heels.
“Florida capitalized a lot on our mistakes that we made with walks, or whatever it might be with errors,” said third baseman Erich Weiss. “They deserved to win because they capitalized on it, but we’re just going to have to learn from our mistakes when we play North Carolina.”
The Tar Heels have seven left-handers in their lineup, led by switch-hitting shortstop and first-round draft pick Levi Michael. The number of lefties has prompted Texas head coach Augie Garrido to consider starting left-hander Sam Stafford rather than senior right-hander Cole Green. If it were up to Green, he would pitch in the four games it would take to get to the finals out of the loser’s bracket.
“I sacrificed something to be here,” said Green, who turned down a MLB contract to return to Texas for his senior season. “This is what I’ve worked for the whole year.”
It was a tough start to the season for Green, who didn’t pick up his first win until his fourth start. But Green has caught fire the past month, and is arguably pitching the best for Texas when it counts the most.
“I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a humbling year,” Green said. “I had to set goals not based upon results.”
For Green to be successful against Carolina’s left-handed batters, he needs to establish his fastball and throw a lot of strikes early in the count.
Green is 2-0 in four postseason appearances this year, including a five-inning outing against Arizona State in an elimination game of the Super Regional.
Green started the final game of the 2009 College World Series, when Texas lost to LSU. He said he will use what he learned in the loss to LSU, and that pitching doesn’t get any tougher than what he went through in 2009.
“This is what he came back for. He’s a leader on this team, and he’s done everything he can to put us in a position to win,” Loy said. “Cole is definitely the guy we want out there.”
Junior Kevin Lusson waits to hit during Texas' practice Sunday at Creighton University's Sports Complex.
The Longhorns, who have spent all season under the gun, face a familiar opponent today in the College World Series: elimination.
“It’s do or die,” said freshman Erich Weiss. “Again. I’d say we’re the most experienced team in the losers’ bracket.”
Because Texas lost the first game of its Omaha trip, a 8-4 loss to Florida on Saturday night, it must now beat North Carolina today to keep its season alive.
After that, the team would have to win three more in this double-elimination bracket to make it to the CWS Finals.
“We can’t focus on the championship or anything like that. We just have to focus on North Carolina,” Weiss said.
It will be a steep climb, one that could have been avoided if the Longhorns had been able to hold on to a 3-0 lead over Florida — a game that saw Taylor Jungmann, once noted for his ability to pitch well in big games, lose his third consecutive postseason match.
“We had a few mistakes and we didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Weiss said. “It’s one that got away.”
If you’ve followed the Longhorns all season, you know that they are best with their backs against the wall. They won three straight elimination games in the Austin Regional. They won two more elimination games in the Super Regional. This team has a confidence in these situations. Everything — each pitch, each at-bat and each coaching decision — becomes dire, and the margin for error shrivels.
“It’s tough to fight from behind all the time, but we’ve been done this the past couple of weeks,” said junior Brandon Loy. “And it’s prepared us for what we’re about to go through this week.”
Earlier, Texas had to beat Texas State and Kent State (twice) and then win two in a row against Arizona State. This challenge is a whole different monster. Texas will now have to top North Carolina (50-15) and then beat both Vanderbilt (53-10) and a 51-17 Florida team (and will have to beat one of those teams twice) just to make it the championship series.
Smart, sensible money has this team taking down the Tar Heels at 1:00 p.m. today with bulldog Cole Green taking the mound and the recent record of strong offensive play in win-or-go-home games.
“We didn’t expect to lose the first game, but it’s something we’ve done before,” Green said. “The season has been on [the] line in my past two starts, and that helps going into this game.”
What will be most challenging will be the fight against exhaustion, and the worry that this team does not believe it can take down such highly seeded teams. But the Longhorns were surprisingly loose and upbeat during the team’s practice Sunday at Creighton’s baseball stadium.
“We feel confident with Cole. He’s been lights out in the playoffs,” Weiss said.
They also feel confident they can somehow climb out of another deep hole. Texas’ best attribute is not its hitting, and after Saturday night’s staff implosion, it might not be its pitching. It’s the team’s now-famous killer instinct, something the Longhorns point out each time they lose some big postseason game.
“With our backs against the wall, we’ve got a real good killer instinct,” said junior Jordan Etier. “We just need to stay together as a team.”
If you need further proof that this never-say-die Texas team can pull it off, look no further than last year. South Carolina lost its first game, then won six in a row to take the CWS championship.
Time will tell if the Longhorns are destined to pull it off. But we do know one thing: They’ve done this before.
Texas' Jordan Etier flies safely into first base in the third inning. Etier was the catalyst for an explosive offensive night, as the junior second baseman went 3-for-4, including a three-run homer in the top of the ninth.
The Longhorns staved off elimination yet again Saturday night with their 5-1 win over Arizona State in the Austin Super Regional. Mark Payton scored the winning run in the sixth inning for Texas and Jordan Etier slapped a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning for insurance.
Cole Green (8-3) pitched five solid innings for Texas and picked up the win. The senior struck out four and gave up only one run.
“I had a lot of focus and intensity,” Green said. “I just tried to stick with what I know, which is to throw the ball down in the zone and be aggressive.”
Texas got on the board in the third inning when Payton hit a sacrifice fly to center left field that scored Tant Shepherd, who led the inning off with a walk. Payton didn’t record a hit during the game, but walked twice and scored a run to go along with the RBI.
The Longhorns added another run in the sixth inning that turned out to be the game-winner. Payton led off with a walk and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Brandon Loy, who moved into a tie for fourth on the NCAA career list with 55 sac bunts. Erich Weiss then doubled to send Payton home.
The Sun Devils answered in the bottom of the sixth with a run of their own on a sacrifice fly from Joey DeMichele that scored Deven Marrero. Arizona State began the inning with two consecutive singles that forced Green to leave the game, but left-hander Hoby Milner came in and limited the damage for the Longhorns.
Texas got into more trouble in the seventh inning after Xorge Carrillo led off with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Zack MacPhee. Kendal Carrillo came in for Texas and struck out pinch-hitter Andy Workman, and then Andrew McKirahan entered to record the final out. Johnny Ruettiger hit a single to Etier at second base, and Etier tried to throw him out at first but was late. As Etier threw to first, Carrillo rounded third base and was streaking toward home plate when Tant Shepherd fired home a throw that catcher Jacob Felts barely held onto as Carrillo crashed into him. Garrido said they hadn’t practiced that throw once the entire season.
“It was a great play,” he said. “There were some really outstanding defensive plays from both teams.”
Etier proved his worth again in the ninth inning by hitting a home run into the Longhorns’ bullpen. The junior finished the day 3-for-4, a vast improvement from his 0-for-2 performance on Friday.
“I had to reboot it and refocus,” Etier said. “I had to take it as another day and get out there and compete with the challenges.”
The home run was Etier’s second of the season. He hit his first on March 8 against UTSA, which was also the first for the team.
“I am particularly pleased with [Etier], he had a rough night last night,” Garrido said. “He was motivated by the problem and did a great job tonight.”
Corey Knebel came in the eighth inning and picked up his 18th save of the season, moving him within one of the Texas single-season record.
Cole Green is 7-3 with a 3.09 ERA this season. He will start Saturday against Arizona State.
Cole Green is one of several Longhorns drafted in this year’s MLB draft. The senior went in the ninth round to the Cincinnati Reds at 295th overall.
“I’m definitely excited for the opportunity to go play [professionally],” Green said. “An organization wants me, that means a lot to me. I’m very happy to be picked by the Reds.”
It’s the second consecutive year Green was selected in the draft. The Detroit Tigers took him in the fourth round last summer, but Green chose to return to Texas for the chance to play for a national championship, and to earn his college degree. Green turned down a $300,000 signing bonus from Detroit, and understood that he would probably lose a lot of money by returning for his senior season.
“I was a little worried after I dropped past where I was drafted last year, the fourth round,” he said. “I understood that being a senior and not having the numbers I had last year takes away my leverage.”
Green was 11-2 last season with a 2.74 ERA, but saw those numbers dip to 7-3 and a 3.09 ERA this year. Green struggled early in the season, when he was fazed by the pressure of performing to his draft stock.
“I’ve definitely grown as a pitcher. I’ve learned a lot from my adversities, doing badly in the beginning of the year,” Green said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great this year. When I didn’t live up to it, I had to put myself in a different mindset and just be a competitor again.”
Green has talked briefly with the Cincinnati Reds, mostly “medical questionnaires and get-to-know-you stuff.”
“They told me after they drafted me ‘Hey, congratulations. Take care of business and we’ll talk after the season.’”
Green is slated to start Saturday’s game against Arizona State.
“We’ve done well and we came a lot closer last weekend,” Green said. “But this next weekend is important for my ideas and dreams of a national championship, which is why I came back.”
Sam Stafford and Brandon Loy received the fanfare of being selected in the higher rounds of day two of this year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, but there were other Longhorns who came off the board later Tuesday.
Senior pitcher Cole Green was chosen by the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth round. Relief pitcher Andrew McKirahan went to the Chicago Cubs in the 21st round, and senior first baseman and Austin Regional Most Outstanding Player Tant Shepherd was selected by the New York Mets in the 24th round.
Last year, Green was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round, but turned down a $300,000 signing bonus for the opportunity to stay in school. Monetarily, that decision looks like it might end up hurting Green, who probably will not get as high an offer this time. But he has repeatedly said all season long that he has no regrets about his decision to turn down big money for the chance to win a national championship. As a junior, Green went 11-2. This year, he is 7-3 with a higher ERA. However, most agree Green has improved in terms of mechanics — his strikeout numbers are higher, and opponents are hitting at a lower average against him. In the long term, Green projects as a back-of-the rotation pitcher or, most likely, a relief pitcher.
Though he didn't see much action this season, McKirahan went a little earlier than most would have projected. The junior left-hander is 3-0 with a 3.05 ERA and, if he signs, would bring pitching depth to an organization that needs all the help it can get.
Shepherd, who despite putting up good numbers and being an above-average defender at first base, has never been very high on many scouts’ boards. Last year, Shepherd was a 47th round selection, and he fell lower in this draft than he probably should have before the Mets picked him. He is the second Longhorn headed to the Big Apple in this year’s draft class (assuming Stafford signs with the Yankees).
On Friday, he started and won Texas’ opening game of the Austin Regional against Princeton. Monday, he again led a winning effort, throwing three innings against Kent State for the regional championship.
The junior pitcher’s name was called No. 88 overall on the second day of the First-Year Player Draft by the Yankees, the most successful organization in professional, American sports.
“Who wouldn’t want to be drafted by the Yankees?” Stafford said. “To go from the University of Texas to New York is awesome. I couldn’t imagine myself going to a better ballclub.”
Stafford admits he does have a decision to make, alluding to the fact that Cole Green was selected in the fourth round of the draft last year and turned down a six-figure signing bonus for the opportunity to return to school. But the amount of money the Yankees may throw at him, plus the opportunity to play in New York, could be too much to turn down.
“I’ve always been a Yankee fan,” he said. “I’ve always loved to watch them play. They play great baseball.”
Stafford was in junior shortstop Brandon Loy’s room following the draft updates on his computer when he saw New York was on the clock.
“I looked at that and said, ‘Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t mind playing for them,” he said.
Then he looked back at the computer screen, and he saw his name.
“I got a call from their guy to tell me that they had selected me, but he heard Brandon screaming in the background so he figured I already had found out,” Stafford said.
And then his phone started blowing up.
“I’ve talked to all the immediate family already; they’re excited,” he said. “I’ve also gotten texts from the teammates. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are Yankee fans and they think I’ll look good in pinstripes.”
Ironically, Stafford was drafted out of high school by the Yankees’ arch nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, in the 40th round of the draft. He elected to go to school and, after two seasons spent as a reliever, has put together a solid year as a starter. His 1.57 ERA ranks second on the team among the starting pitchers, and opponents hit .188 against him this season.
Safe to say, he made the right decision. Not only has his draft stock improved substantially, but he has the opportunity to help the Longhorns chase their seventh College World Series Championship.
“Being drafted is a dream of mine,” he said. “But at the same time, you have to focus on maybe even a more exciting thing — chasing the dream of a national championship. I feel fantastic.”