Thursday, June 8, 1989
Texas continued its postseason dream Thursday night while adding to Louisiana State pitcher Ben McDonald's College World Series nightmare.
The second-seeded Longhorns, counted out at times during an up-and-down regular season, advanced to Saturday's 12:05 p.m. national championship game with a 12-7 victory over LSU and the 6-foot-7 McDonald, college baseball's top star this season who became the first pitcher to ever lose four games in his CWS career.
Texas, 7-0 since the start of NCAA regional play, improved its CWS record to 3-0 in a game that drew a session-record crowd of 16,072 at Rosenblatt Stadium.
"Some people wrote us off a bunch," said Longhorn designated hitter Scott Bryant, who drove in three runs against the Tigers. "But we never wrote ourselves off. We always thought we could win, even during the tough times. We knew we had to stick together and play together."
Texas, which finished third in the Southwest Conference, will play the winner of tonight's 7:10 game between top-seeded Florida State and fourth-seeded Wichita State in the championship game.
The Longhorns, qualifying for their eighth title game, will be gunning for their fifth national championship and third under Coach Cliff Gustafson.
"Those were all outstanding teams and I think this one is, too," Gustafson said. "Maybe if you want to differentiate, it's that this team really didn't get to a peak until the national playoffs."
The Longhorns swept to the West Division title in double-elimination bracket play with victories over Cal State Long Beach, Miami and Louisiana State. Florida State and Wichita State will determine the East Bracket winner tonight.
Texas erupted for 11 runs and nine hits against McDonald, who lasted only 3 1/3 innings. McDonald, taken by Baltimore as the No. 1 choice in Monday's amateur draft, also committed two throwing errors in the Longhorns' four-run first inning.
McDonald, bothered by a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand in Thursday's game, lost two games in the 1987 series - including the infamous game against Stanford when Paul Carey hit a grand slam against him to defeat the Tigers 6-5 in 10 innings. This year, McDonald gave up two home runs in dropping his opening game to Miami 5-2.
"It's been tough here for me," McDonald said. "I haven't had a whole lot of luck. But I can't let that affect me in the future. I have to go on, and maybe I'll get a chance in pro ball one day and win a game here."
The highly publicized battle between All-America pitchers - McDonald and Texas' Kirk Dressendorfer - fizzled from the start.
"I think I said and some other people said that very often these ballyhooed pitching duels just don't develop that way," Gustafson said. "Here was another case of it."
Dressendorfer, staked to a 7-0 lead after three innings, lacked All-America sharpness. He scattered five hits over six innings, but tied a career high with eight walks. The sophomore right-hander, who boosted his record to 18-2, was hurting throughout the game, Gustafson said.
"It was about as gutsy a performance as I've ever seen," Gustafson said. "He was in pain all the way through. His lower back was hurting. But he didn't want to come out."
McDonald, 14-4, said the blister affected his performance.
"That was a big factor in it," he said. "I just couldn't throw the fastball. It ripped open and I put a Band-Aid over it. I couldn't really feel the ball. It affected my fastball and the curveball."
McDonald's first-inning troubles started with a leadoff walk to Lance Jones and a single up the middle by David Tollison. Both runners advanced when McDonald threw wildly on a pickoff attempt to second.
The error on the pickoff took place during the first confrontation between the two college baseball players of the year - McDonald and Texas' Bryant. Baseball America newspaper picked McDonald as the nation's top player. Bryant received the same honor from the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Bryant won round one. The national RBI leader boosted his total to 111 with a bloop two-run triple. Arthur Butcher made it 3-0 with a run-scoring single to right.
After Butcher stole second, Craig Newkirk reached on a sacrifice bunt. McDonald fielded the ball and launched it into left field in an attempt to throw out Butcher at third, allowing the Longhorn to score. The Horns led 4-0 before McDonald had retired a batter.
"Knowing what I know now," LSU Coach Skip Bertman said, "I'm sorry he started, and we went too long with him."
Texas opened the second inning against McDonald the same way it started the first - with a walk and a single by the first two batters, Jon Prather and Jones. McDonald struck out the next two batters, Tollison and Bryant, before Butcher unloaded a two-run double off the right-field fence.
McDonald got off to a better start in the third, retiring the first two batters. But the Longhorns struck again when Steve Bethea's solo home run made it 7-0.
"I'm not taking anything away from the Texas ballclub," McDonald said. "I still made some pretty good pitches, and they still hit the ball."1st Hit in Third
Dressendorfer didn't allow a hit in the first two innings. LSU's Phil Espinosa broke the ice with a leadoff double in the third. After a two-out walk to Tookie Johnson, the Tigers scored their first two runs when shortstop Bethea made an error on a sharp hopper by Keith Osik. LSU added a run on Craig Cala's single before Dressendorfer retired Mike Bianco on a pop foul to third baseman Newkirk to end the inning.
Texas continued to pound on McDonald in the fourth. He walked Jones, the third time in four innings that he walked the leadoff hitter. Jones advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Bryant's single, his 112th RBI of the season.
Butcher followed with a single. Bertman finally replaced McDonald when Newkirk made it 9-3 with a double.
Reliever Mark LaRosa was greeted by David Lowery's sacrifice bunt to score Butcher. The Longhorns added their fourth run of the inning on Jeff Shults' RBI single.
The Tigers turned to reliever Chad Ogea after Bethea singled. Ogea ended the inning by striking out Prather.Quote Motivation
Bryant, who will be Texas' starting pitcher in the championship game, said the Longhorns were motivated by comments from LSU's Bertman that he expected the Tigers to win the game.
"We tend as a team to take to heart what people say," Bryant said. "It can get you in trouble if you say a lot of things before the game."
The Longhorns needed another good relief job from Brian Dare to hold off an LSU comeback.
LSU got back in the game with three runs in the seventh after reliever Curry Harden struck out the first two batters to start the inning.
Espinosa doubled and scored on pinch-hitter Kevin Berry's single. Pete Bush followed with an RBI double that chased Harden. The Tigers made it 11-7 on an RBI single by Osik against Dare. With runners at first and second, Dare ended the inning when Wes Grisham took a called third strike.
Dare also struck out the first two batters in the ninth.