Tuesday, June 2, 2009

From Peter King's MMQB on CNNSI

Here's the link to the story...great, great stuff.

Stat of the Week/Hero of the Week

NCAA baseball tournament, Austin Regional, University of Texas, Sunday morning, 1:05 a.m. Central time.
The final: Texas 3, Boston College 2, in 25 innings.
Texas went 22 consecutive innings without scoring, and won.

The most valuable player in the game was the senior closer for Texas, Austin Wood. He entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out and a runner on second base ... and threw no-hit baseball for the next 12 1/3 innings. Wood had 15 saves this year. His longest outing before Saturday night was 4 1/3 innings. In this game, he closed for 13 innings. Austin

Wood's pitching line from one of the greatest games in any sport in NCAA history:
13IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 4BB, 14K, 46 batters faced, 169 pitches.

"In my 41 years of coaching,'' said Texas coach Augie Garrido, "the effort by Austin Wood was the best pitching performance I have ever seen.''

I got Austin Wood on the phone around noon Sunday. He's a lefty, more breaking stuff than fastball, with a fastball topping out at about 91. He's done everything at Texas in four seasons, closed, pitched middle relief and, for two years, started. He was named closer by Garrido this year.

And so he was out in the bullpen on a 95-degree Austin evening at the Longhorns' home field when starter Chance Ruffin got into trouble. In a 2-2 game against Boston College, Ruffin put a runner at second and Garrido went out to make a pitching change. Wood jogged in on the steamy night, hoping to save the day.

"Pick me up,'' said Ruffin, handing him the ball on the mound.
"Make pitches,'' said Garrido. "Get us out of the inning.''

The first batter Wood faced, Andrew Lawrence, fouled off seven pitches before striking out swinging. Not going to be a very long outing if every batter has an 11-pitch at-bat. The next Eagle grounded out. In the eighth, Wood walked an Eagle, but nothing came of it.

BC went 1-2-3 in the ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th. No-hit ball for 6.2 innings.

"All I kept thinking was what I've been taught over and over: 'One pitch at a time, one pitch at a time,' '' Wood said.

What was odd, Wood thought, was Boston College being the home team. Just because a team hosts the regional doesn't mean it's the home team; the NCAA has a formula that tries to equalize the home-road factor, and in this game, Texas was the visitor. So every time Wood went to the mound, it was sudden death. In a broiler.

It was still in the mid-80s by the time it got to the 12th. In between innings, Wood drank until he couldn't stand to drink anymore. Over the course of the night, he's sure he drank 30 cups of Gatorade, Pedialyte (the electrolyte-laced fluid given to dehydrated infants) and water -- more than 200 ounces of liquid in all. That would become a, well, a bit of a problem later. But for now, there was another problem Wood had to solve.

"After four or five innings, I came to the bench and I heard coach Garrido and Skip [pitching coach Skip Johnson] talking about how they had to get me out of there, that I'd thrown enough,'' he said. "So I walked over to where they were in the dugout and I said, 'I'm not coming out of this game. This is my game. We need it.' And they said, basically, 'OK.'''

A two-out walk in the 14th resulted in nothing. Then seven more Eagles were retired in a row.
It was becoming a running joke on the bench, the marathon. "I'd come into the bench, and all I could do was laugh,'' he said. "What an incredible ball game! I was so involved in the moment, but I knew what a great game it was, what a fun game it was -- the funnest, easily, that I've ever been involved in. And if I'm never involved in a more fun game than that, fine; I mean, who ever could be in a game this enjoyable? And every time I'd come in, the guys would say, 'Hey, don't worry, we'll pick you up. We'll score this inning.' ''

Wood started cramping severely around the 15th. The trainer, between innings, would stretch him out, and he'd drink more and more. Before he went out for the 17th, Wood adjourned to the locker room and threw up violently because he'd been drinking too much too fast.

"Did you think you'd be too sick to go back out?'' I asked.
"Oh, I wasn't coming out of that game,'' he said.

He walked the leadoff hitter in the 17th, and the next batter reached on a sacrifice that Texas couldn't get the out on. But Wood got the next three batters groundout-strikeout-flyout, and it was on to the 18th. Each side went 1-2-3.

Wood now had thrown 11 2/3 no-hit innings.

"I didn't know,'' he said. "I had no idea until later.''

In the 19th, Texas opened with back-to-back singles, and eventually had the bases loaded with two out. But a flyout to left ended the threat. The grandstand groaned. There were 7,000 at the game at the 6 p.m. start. Now it was approaching midnight, and about 4,500 remained, on the edge of their seats.

Bottom 19: BC opened with two quick groundouts. But Wood walked the next hitter. And on an 0-1 fastball, BC's Tony Sanchez grounded a single through the left side. Wood had no idea that was the first hit he'd allowed, and paid no mind to the big hand the crowd rained down on him for pitching 12.1 no-hit innings.

Now Wood had to bear down. First and second, two out. Here came cleanup hitter Mickey Wiswall. Wood painted the black on the outside corner for two quick strikes. Then catcher Cameron Rupp called for a slow curve, and Wood bounced it in the dirt.

Wild pitch. Runners moved up, and now it was second and third, two out. The biggest win in BC baseball history was 90 feet away.

Rupp called for another curve. "You gotta be kidding me,'' thought Wood, who shook him off. Rupp called for the fastball and set up outside.

Strike three. Swinging.

That was Wood's 163rd pitch. Usually he'd throw between 10 and 30 in an outing. Never, ever in his high school or college career had he gone this far in a game, thrown this many pitches.

"Maybe it was adrenaline,'' Wood said, "but I couldn't believe how good I felt. My arm felt great. I wasn't sick, even though I threw up. But my body felt great, my arm felt great.''

Texas got a two-out double and a walk in the top of the 20th. But a strikeout ended the threat.
With one out in the bottom of the 20th, Barry Butera singled up the middle for BC. "He hit a great pitch,'' said Wood. "Good for him.'' Then Wood hit Lawrence, the next batter. First and second, one out. Here came the coach. There wouldn't be a discussion. "He was coming to get me,'' Wood said. "That was it.''

When he walked off the field, just after midnight, everyone in the stadium rose and cheered. The Longhorn bench emptied and met him with cheers and high-fives and hugs in front of the dugout. The BC dugout cheered.

"The coolest feeling I ever had on a baseball field,'' Wood said. "I can't lie. I wanted to soak in every second of it. The BC kids, what class. That was incredible. I just wanted to make sure I enjoyed the best moment I've ever had in baseball. But I wasn't satisfied. Not at all. We had to win this game.''

Austin Dicharry, the reliever, got two quick outs to send the game to the 21st. and Texas won it in the 25th, finally, on a Travis Tucker RBI single to right -- after Tucker had gone one-for-11 up to that point.

Wood heard what Garrido said about him, about how it was the greatest pitching performance he'd seen in 41 years. "Now that is pretty cool,'' Wood said. "I can't lie -- that's some unbelievable praise.''

There may have been higher praise. "But I have to tell you what was the most incredible thing after the game. The president of the university came to me after the game, and this is a direct quote. He told me, 'That's probably the best athletic performance ever at the University of Texas.' I mean, wow. Earl Campbell, Vince Young.''

Now there came the physical toll. "As soon as I started icing it,'' he said, "I knew it was going to hurt. And it did. It does. But boy, is it worth it. I was on Cloud 9 all night. I couldn't fall asleep. I got to bed around 4:30, I guess.''

"Did you sleep OK?'' I asked.
"About four hours,'' Wood said. "But I'll tell you this: Fell asleep smiling, woke up smiling.''

And that is why we love sports.

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