Louisiana explodes past Texas to reach regional title round

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The Texas A&M Aggies will enter the title round of the NCAA Bryan-College Station Regional Sunday night as a prohibitive favorite against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

The Aggies are seeded third nationally and first in the region and will play for the third time this weekend in front of their boisterous home fans at Blue Bell Park.

A&M has won 34 and lost only three at home all year, so the paying customers will expect the Southeastern Conference powerhouse to beat the Sun Belt regular-season champions and complete a three-for-three sweep through the regional.

The regional’s second-seeded Cajuns, however, will not go home willingly.

Showing a determined resolve in playing through the losers bracket, Louisiana erupted for seven runs in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon en route to a 10-2 victory to eliminate the third-seeded Texas Longhorns.

The Cajuns lashed six hits during the outburst, including three-run homers by Jose Torres and Bryan Broussard.

Louisiana took a circuitous route to the regional finals. In Friday’s opener, the Longhorns beat the Cajuns 12-5. But on Saturday afternoon, they started their way back, knocking off the Grambling State (La.) Tigers, 12-5.

With the victory, they earned a rematch with the Longhorns, and they didn’t waste it. Louisiana produced 15 hits, including four for extra bases. When they needed a hit, they got it, driving in all 10 runs in two-out situations.

For the Longhorns, starting pitcher Ace Whitehead worked 6 and 2/3 innings and allowed only two runs. Texas had 10 hits, including two each by Will Gasparino, Rylan Galvan, Casey Borba and Max Schuessler.

But after losing 4-2 Saturday night to the Aggies, the Longhorns’ failed to generate much momentum against the Cajuns. Winners of 15 of their last 20 games, Texas couldn’t produce when it mattered, going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

Records

Texas A&M 46-13
Louisiana 42-19
x-Texas 36-24
x-Grambling 26-28

Coming up

Louisiana at Texas A&M, Sunday, 7 p.m., in the regional title round. If Louisiana wins, a winner-take-all game between the two would be played on Monday. A Monday game time hasn’t been announced.

Texas A&M downs Texas 4-2 in 11 innings to cap an NCAA tournament thriller

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

First, Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle credited the Texas Longhorns. He also lauded his own players and then went into a discussion about how difficult it is to understand why certain things happen in a baseball game.

Finally, in remarks made at a news conference following his team’s dramatic NCAA tournament victory Saturday night, he tried to offer some perspective.

“We won a ballgame,” Schlossnagle said. “We didn’t win a championship. I mean, this team, as good a season as we’ve had, we haven’t won any championship. We didn’t win our league. We didn’t win our division. We didn’t win the conference tournament.

“So, we won a ballgame. It’s a big one. Any winners bracket game in a regional is a big one. But, we haven’t won anything yet.”

What Schlossnagle said was true.

At the same time, with a riveting 4-2 victory in 11 innings over the Longhorns, the Aggies took a big step toward their immediate goal of winning the NCAA Bryan-College Station Regional and advancing to the next round.

With the win, they are now one victory away from clinching a date in next week’s Super Regional.

A&M scored twice in the top of the 11th inning and then held on as reliever Evan Aschenbeck closed out the game in the bottom half. Maroon-clad fans at a jam-packed Blue Bell Park erupted in cheers and likely celebrated well into the night.

“There’s nothing like it,” Aschenbeck told an ESPN reporter, commenting on the fan support at A&M home games. “No words can even describe it. It’s awesome … I don’t think we could do it without the 12th Man.”

Kaeden Kent, facing UT reliever Andre Duplantier II, led off the 11th for A&M with a single up the middle. After Gavin Grahovac flied out, Jace LaViolette walked, putting runners at first and second base.

From there, UT coach David Pierce decided to make a change. He pulled Duplantier and replaced him with lefthander Chase Lummus. Braden Montgomery, one of the best hitters in NCAA baseball, faced Lummus first and popped up to the infield. But Lummus, at that stage, started to struggle with his command and walked Jackson Appel to load the bases.

The walk was costly as the next man up, Ted Burton, topped a soft grounder down the third base line. Texas third baseman Peyton Powell waited and waited, hoping it might go foul. But it didn’t, and at the last minute, he misplayed the ball allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Burton was credited with an RBI single. With Hayden Schott at the plate and the bases still loaded, Lummus threw a wild pitch, allowing another run to cross and make it 4-2.

In the bottom half of the 11th, the Longhorns couldn’t get anything going. Powell grounded out. Max Belyeu flied out and Kimble Schuessler ground out against Aschenbeck, who was credited with the win in 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball.

Texas took an early lead when Jared Thomas led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer. Thomas blasted the first pitch from A&M pitcher Ryan Prager over the left field wall. In the fifth, Caden Sorrell answered for the Aggies. In tying the score at 1-1, he hit a one-out, solo homer off UT starter Lebarron Johnson Jr.

In the sixth inning, the Longhorns retaliated when Schuessler made it 2-1 on another solo homer off Prager, this one coming in a dramatic moment with two outs.

After the run scored, fans in the stands fell silent. They stayed that way for a few innings until the Longhorns came unglued defensively in the eighth. Two infield errors led to a run for the Aggies, who tied the score again.

Aschenbeck started to get really tough at that juncture. He retired three straight in both the eighth and the ninth. In the 10th, he faced trouble when Will Gasparino led off with a walk and was sacrifice bunted to second.

Thomas grounded to the right side to move Gasparino over to third base. But that’s as far as he’d go as Flores, who hit a grand slam in UT’s 12-5 victory over Louisiana on Friday, popped up to end the inning.

In the head-to-head series between the teams, the Aggies have won six of the last seven meetings, including a 10-2 win in the 2022 College World Series, a 9-2 win earlier this season in Austin and now in a postseason game that keeps the Aggies on track to win the regional.

Next season, the Longhorns will join the Aggies in the Southeastern Conference.

Records

Texas 36-23
Texas A&M 46-13

Notable

The region’s second-seeded Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns won 12-5 earlier in the day to eliminate the No. 4 seed Grambling State (La.) Tigers from the tournament.

With the win, the Cajuns (41-19) advance in the losers bracket to play Sunday afternoon at 2.

They’ll play against Texas in a matchup of teams that are 1-1 in the regional. The survivor of that game will play a 2-0 Texas A&M squad at 7 p.m.

Flores grand slam paces Texas, sets up Longhorns-Aggies NCAA tournament game

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Trailing early and feeling some pressure, the Texas Longhorns erupted for three runs in the fourth inning and seven in the fifth on Friday night en route to a 12-5 NCAA tournament victory over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Olsen Field.

Kimble Schuessler had three hits and Jalin Flores from San Antonio Brandeis High School smashed a grand slam, advancing the Longhorns in the winners bracket of the Bryan-College Station Regional to play their longtime rivals, the Texas A&M Aggies, on Saturday night.

In the beginning, the regional’s third-seeded Longhorns looked a bit sluggish. The second-seeded Cajuns were taking it to them. Lee Amedee ripped a solo home run in the second. Trey LaFleur added a long solo shot in the third, staking Louisiana to a 2-0 lead.

At that point, some in the crowd at A&M’s home field started to join in with the Louisiana fans to cheer the Cajuns. There might have been a jeer or two for the Longhorns, as well. In response, UT answered with fourth-inning outburst to take charge of the game.

During the rally, they strung together five straight hits. Rylan Galvan had an RBI double and Dee Kennedy added a two-run single, lifting the Longhorns into a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, Flores made two nice plays in the field to choke off a Louisiana rally. On the first one, the Cajuns had runners at first and second base, and he fielded a ground ball in the hole.

Flores flipped a short throw to third for the first out, keeping a base runner out of prime scoring position.

Next, he figured into an inning-ending double play. On the play, Kennedy fielded a ground ball on the right side and threw to the bag at second, where Flores came across to touch for the second out. He promptly rifled a throw to first that beat Amedee by a half step to end the inning.

But with the Longhorns coming to bat in the top of the fifth and leading by only a run, they needed another rally and some more runs for breathing room against the Sun Belt Conference champions. A rally is what they got.

UT had the first four batters reach base, with Galvan drawing a walk to drive in a run. After Will Gasparino struck out, disaster struck for Louisiana when Cajuns shortstop Kalen DeBarge failed to field cleanly a ground ball that could have been a double play.

Instead, a run scored and everyone was safe, loading the bases again.

From there, Jared Thomas delivered with an RBI single to make it 6-2. With the bases still jammed, Flores stepped up and cranked his third grand slam and his 18th homer of the season, a blast that landed well behind the left field fence.

Suddenly, UT was leading 10-2 and cruising. For Flores, a first-team All Big 12 performer, it was his second grand slam in NCAA tournament play. He also hit one in last year’s NCAA tournament to help the Longhorns win the Coral Gables Regional.

Records

Louisiana 40-19
Texas 36-22

Coming up

Bryan-College Station Regional

Saturday — Losers bracket game between Grambling and Louisiana at 2 p.m. Winners bracket game between Texas and regional top seed Texas A&M at 8 p.m. A&M is seeded third overall in the NCAA tournament.

Former Longhorns David Hamilton, Blair Henley reach the major leagues

Two additional players with roots in Texas have reached the major leagues in the past few days, including shortstop David Hamilton and pitcher Blair Henley, both from the University of Texas Longhorns.

Hamilton, who played at San Marcos High School, homered Sunday in his first game of the season with the Boston Red Sox. He had made his MLB debut with the Red Sox last season but had started this spring at Triple A Worcester.

The Red Sox called him up when Trevor Story, formerly of Irving High School, suffered a shoulder injury last Friday.

Henley played in high school at Fort Worth Arlington Heights. He played at UT for the Longhorns from 2017-19. The right-handed pitcher was selected by the Houston Astros in the seventh round of the 2019 draft.

Henley pitched in the Double A Texas League for the Corpus Christi Hooks last season and went 3-6 with a 5.06 ERA. He struck out 106 in 106 and 2/3 innings.

This season, he pitched one game for the Triple A Sugar Land Space Cowboys. He was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA before getting called up to start on Monday night in Arlington against the Texas Rangers.

Since opening day, two prominent Texans in the majors have been moved off the active roster and onto the injured list, including Josh Jung (San Antonio MacArthur/Texas Tech/Texas Rangers) and Trevor Story (Irving/Boston Red Sox). Jung is out with a wrist fracture and Story with a shoulder.

Here is a list of players that I compiled and published a few weeks ago. It was an opening-day list of MLB athletes, in alphabetical order, who either played high school or college baseball in the state.

Editor’s note: There may be a few more Texans in the majors that I have yet to identify. I promise to add them to the list when the information surfaces.

Texans in MLB

Tyler Alexander/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Chicago native/Southlake Carroll HS/TCU – The 29-year-old Alexander is scheduled to pitch in the starting rotation with the Rays after working mostly out of the bullpen last year with the Detroit Tigers.

Chase Anderson/RHP/Boston Red Sox/Wichita Falls Rider/North Central Texas College/Oklahoma – The 36-year-old is entering his 11th year in the major leagues and his first season with the Red Sox. In his career, he is 59-56 with a 4.34 ERA.

Grant Anderson/RHP/Texas Rangers/Port Arthur native/West-Orange Stark HS/McNeese State — The high-kicking, side-winding righty is starting his second season in the majors with the Rangers. He’s scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen. His brother, Aidan, is in the Rangers’ farm system.

Brett Baty/3B/New York Mets/Round Rock native/Lake Travis HS — Baty enters his third season with the Mets. After they drafted him with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft, he toiled in the minors until a 2022 call up. Has hit .210 in 119 major league games with the Mets.

Josh Bell/1B/Miami Marlins/Dallas Jesuit HS – Bell solidified himself as the Marlins’ starting first baseman in spring camp. He’s got the run-producing credentials. He has RBI totals of 88, 71 and 74 the past three seasons, from 2021 through 2023, respectively. Bell has also played for the Pirates, the Nationals and the Padres.

Cavan Biggio/UTILITY/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston St.Thomas HS/University of Notre Dame – The son of former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio, starting his sixth season in the majors, is expected to play a utility role. Could see quite a bit of time at second base. Biggio helped lead St. Thomas to the 2011 TAPPS Class 5A state championship.

Cody Bradford/LHP/Texas Rangers/Aledo HS/Baylor — Bradford was a late-season callup for the Rangers last year. He pitched 56 innings in 20 games, including eight starts. He crafted a 4-3 record with a 5.20 earned run average. In the playoffs, he appeared in five games, all in relief, including two appearances in the World Series. Bradford had a postseason record of 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA.

Matt Carpenter/DH-1B/St. Louis Cardinals/Galveston/Missouri City Elkins HS/TCU — The 38-year-old Carpenter, a former All-Star in St. Louis, returns to the Cardinals after a few years away with the Yankees and Padres.

Colton Cowser/OF/Baltimore Orioles/Cypress/Cy Ranch HS/Sam Houston State – After playing 26 games in the big leagues late last season, Colton Cowser made the Orioles out of spring training. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft out of Sam Houston State.

Nathan Eovaldi/RHP/Texas Rangers/Houston native, attended Alvin HS. — Eovaldi is projected to play a leading role as the Rangers attempt to defend their American League and World Series titles. He is in his second season with Rangers after he spent the previous five seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Drafted in the 11th round in 2008, by the LA Dodgers, out of Alvin High School.

Kyle Finnegan/RHP/Washington Nationals/Houston-area Kingwood HS/Texas State University — Projected to pitch out of the bullpen as he starts his fifth season in MLB, all with the Nationals. In his career, he has forged a 19-18 record with a 3.53 earned run average. Played for Coach Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2011-13.

Paul Goldschmidt/1B/St. Louis Cardinals/The Woodlands HS/Texas State – An eighth-round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Goldschmidt starts his 14th season in the majors. A former seven-time All Star, he ranks fifth among active players in hits (1,909) behind only Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Andrew McCutcheon and Jose Altuve. He played for Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2007-09.

Trent Grisham/OF/New York Yankees/Burleson/Richland, North Richland Hills HS — Dealt from the San Diego Padres to the Yankees in the Juan Soto trade. Grisham broke into the big leagues in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Started in the outfield the past four seasons with the Padres, winning gold gloves as a centerfielder in 2020 and 2022. Played in Triple A for the San Antonio Missions in 2019 before his call up to the majors. Hit for the cycle in his last game before getting the call to the big leagues.

Ke’Bryan Hayes/3B/Pittsburgh Pirates/Tomball Concordia Lutheran HS – Hayes starts his fifth season in the majors, all with the Pirates. Drafted by the Pirates out of high school in 2015 with 32nd pick on the first round. He’s known as a defensive specialist though he did hit a career-high 15 home runs last year. Spent some time last summer battling a sore back.

Jordan Hicks/RHP/San Francisco Giants/Houston Cypress Creek HS – Hicks gets a fresh start in his career as a starter with the Giants. Hicks has been in the big leagues as a reliever since 2018. Through 2023, he had pitched in 212 games. He was 12-21 with a 3.77 ERA. The Cardinals traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. Hicks elected free agency in the offseason, and he later signed with the Giants.

Josh Jung/INF/Texas Rangers/San Antonio MacArthur HS/Texas Tech — Last year, as a rookie in his first full season in the major leagues, Josh Jung made the American League All-Star team, hit 23 home runs and produced 70 RBIs. He also overcame an injury late in the season to help the Rangers win their first World Series title. He’s expected to start at third base tonight against the Cubs after sitting out much of the spring with a leg injury. Played for coach Tom Alfieri at MacArthur and for Tim Tadlock at Texas Tech.

John King/LHP/St. Louis Cardinals/Sugar Land Clements HS/University of Houston – King, a native of Laredo who grew up in the Houston area, has pitched parts of the last four seasons in the majors. He’s 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 107 appearances, all out of the bullpen. The Rangers traded him to the Cardinals last summer in the Jordan Montgomery deal. King opened the 2024 season in Triple-A at Memphis but was recalled to the big league club on March 31.

Shea Langeliers/C/Portland, Ore., native/Keller HS/Baylor University — The sturdy rookie catcher proved he was up to the task, working in 135 games last season in his first full year in the majors. He hit .205 with 22 homers and 63 RBIs. Langeliers played for Rob Stramp at Keller HS and for Steve Rodriguez at Baylor. He was the ninth pick in the 2019 draft, out of Baylor, by the Braves.

Nick Loftin/UTILITY/Kansas City Royals/Corpus Christi Ray HS/Baylor University — Loftin made the opening day roster based on his play with the Royals last September, when he hit .323 in 19 games, and then his strong showing in spring training. The Royals selected him 32nd overall in the 2020 draft out of Baylor.

James McArthur/RHP/Kansas City Royals/New Braunfels High School/University of Mississippi — The 6-foot-7 righthander was traded from the Phillies to the Royals last summer. He has made the best of it, earning four saves in 18 relief appearances last season. Now, he’s earned a spot on the Royals’ opening-day roster.

Bryce Miller/RHP/Seattle Mariners/New Braunfels HS/Texas A&M — In a surprise move that ended up pleasing everyone in the Great Northwest last year, the Mariners moved Miller up from Double-A to the major leagues in early May and watched in wonderment as he went 8-7 with a 4.32 ERA. He pitched 131.1 innings in 25 starts.

Shelby Miller/RHP/Detroit Tigers/Round Rock native/Brownwood HS – The 33-year-old Miller starts his 13th season in the major leagues in Detroit. Miller is pitching out of the Tigers’ bullpen. Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009 out of Brownwood High School, he has pitched in the majors for the Cardinals, Braves, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Cubs, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers. Miller, who had five starts in the minors with the San Antonio Missions in 2019, is 42-48 with a 4.06 ERA lifetime in the big leagues.

Hoby Milner/LHP/Milwaukee Brewers/Dallas/Fort Worth Paschal HS/University of Texas – The 33-year-old Milner could see a more prominent role in the Brewers’ bullpen with an injury to ace reliever Devin Williams. Milner was drafted in the seventh round out of UT in 2012 by the Phillies.

A.J. Minter/LHP/Atlanta Braves/Tyler/Brook Hill School in Bullard/Texas A&M – Minter is expected to help anchor the Braves’ bullpen once again. He’s pitched seven previous seasons, all with the Braves, and has posted 35 saves and 105 holds. His record is 19-25, and his ERA is 3.35. Minter played for Coach Terry Pirtle at the Brook Hill School in East Texas and for Rob Childress-coached teams at Texas A&M from 2013-15.

Max Muncy/INF/Los Angeles Dodgers/Midland native/Keller HS/Baylor University — The 32-year-old Muncy is expected to start at third base for the Dodgers, considered one of the favorites to win the National League pennant and World Series. Coming off a 35-homer, 105-RBI year, Muncy is in his ninth season in the majors. In 2012, he was drafted on the fifth round by the Oakland A’s, a few weeks after he led 49-win Baylor to an NCAA Super Regional.

Chris Paddack/RHP/Minnesota Twins/Austin native/Cedar Park HS — Paddack will enter his sixth season in the majors and his third with the Twins as a starter. Sidelined in May of 2022 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, he returned and pitched at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Paddack was drafted out of high school in 2015 by the Marlins. Later traded to the Padres, he pitched in 2018 with the Double-A Missions in San Antonio.

Colin Poche/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Flower Mound/Flower Mound Marcus HS/ University of Arkansas/Dallas Baptist — The 30-year-old lefty will start his fourth season in the majors pitching out of the Rays’ bullpen. Poche was an eye-opening 12-3 with a 2.23 earned run average last year.

Ryan Pressly/RHP/Houston Astros/Flower Mound Marcus – Even with the Astros’ addition of Josh Hader as closer, the 35-year-old Pressley will be counted on heavily in high-leverage situations late in games. He’s pitched in 564 games in his career and another 46 in the playoffs during the Astros’ run of success. In high school, Pressly attended American Heritage Academy for three years and was an 11th-round pick of the Red Sox out of Marcus HS in 2011.

Brooks Raley/LHP/New York Mets/San Antonio native/Uvalde HS/Texas A&M — The 35-year-old Raley has enjoyed a long and winding career in professional baseball, getting drafted in 2009, breaking into the major leagues in 2012, playing in Korea from 2015-19, and then hitting his stride in the big leagues from 2020 to the present. Last year, he pitched in 66 games for the Mets out of the bullpen and posted a 2.80 earned run average. This will be his second season in New York.

Anthony Rendon/INF/Los Angeles Angels/Houston Lamar HS/Rice University – The 33-year-old Rendon starts his fifth season with the Angels. He came to the team in 2020 on a $245 million long-term contract. Plagued by injuries, he’s had trouble living up to expectations. Rendon hasn’t played more than 58 games in any season since he joined the team. A power-hitting third baseman, he slugged a total of 103 home runs in a four-year stretch from 2016-19 with the Washington Nationals. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Nationals out of Rice.

Grayson Rodriguez/RHP/Baltimore Orioles/Nacogdoches Central Heights HS – Rodriguez (7-4, 4.35) more than held his own as a rookie for the AL East Division champions. He should settle in nicely as the No. 2 starter behind recently-acquired Corbin Burnes.

Burch Smith/RHP/Miami Marlins/San Antonio native/Tyler Lee HS/University of Oklahoma – The 33-year-old Smith returns to the majors after spending the past two seasons playing overseas in Japan and Korea. In 2019, Smith pitched as a starter in Triple-A with the San Antonio Missions. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021.

Drew Smith/RHP/New York Mets/Fort Worth/Crowley HS/Dallas Baptist – The 30-year-old righthander is 11-12 with a 3.53 earned run average over five seasons, all with the Mets. Reached the big leagues in 2018, and sat out all of 2019 after elbow surgery. Last summer, his earned run average ticked up a bit to 4.15, but he remained as a fixture in the pen with 62 appearances.

Trevor Story/INF/Red Sox/Irving HS – The 31-year-old Story is looking for a re-set on his career going into his third year in Boston. Last year, he sat out 112 games with an elbow injury. He returned to play 43 games in August and September and hit only .203. The Sox hope he can regain some of the form he had with the Colorado Rockies, where he enjoyed a couple of 30-plus homer and 20-plus steal seasons. Story was the 45th pick in the 2011 draft out of Irving High School.

Ross Stripling/RHP/Oakland A’s/Pennsylvania native/Southlake Carroll HS/Texas A&M – The San Francisco Giants shipped the 34-year-old Stripling to the struggling A’s in February. With the A’s, he’ll bring veteran savvy to the clubhouse. He’s 38-43 with a 3.96 earned run average in his career. In high school, Stripling played for Larry Hughes at Southlake Carroll. In college, he pitched the Rob Childress-coached Aggies to three NCAA tournaments, including the 2011 College World Series.

Jose Trevino/C/NY Yankees/Corpus Christi St. John Paul II/Oral Roberts – Will enter his third year with the Yankees and his sixth in major league baseball. Trevino is coming off an injury-marred season in which he was lost to the team in July with a torn ligament in his right wrist. Trevino, formerly of the Texas Rangers, made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove in 2022.

Will Vest/RHP/Detroit Tigers/Houston-area Fort Bend Ridge Point HS/Stephen F. Austin University – Will Vest opens his fourth season in the majors and his third with the Tigers as a middle innings reliever.

Michael Wacha/RHP/Kansas City Royals/Iowa City native, Texarkana Pleasant Grove HS, Texas A&M University – Wacha signed last December as a free agent with the Royals. Clated to be the fourth starter in the Royals’ rotation, Wacha has fashioned a 88-54 record in 11 previous seasons in the majors. He was an All-American at Texas A&M in 2010 and 2011.

Jordan Westburg/INF/Baltimore Orioles/New Braunfels HS/Mississippi State – Westburg, in his first season in the majors, hit .260 and played all over the infield in 68 games last year. He’ll be asked to play a similar role this season.

Bobby Witt Jr./INF/Kansas City Royals/Fort Worth-area Colleyville Heritage HS — Witt enters his third season in the majors with a new contract, which reportedly covers 14 years, including 11 of it guaranteed for $288 million. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft blossomed last season, hitting 30 home runs and stealing 49 bases. He is the son of former Rangers pitcher Bobby Witt.

Connor Wong/C/Boston Red Sox/Pearland HS/University of Houston — The 27-year-old Wong became a starter last year and played in 126 games. He’ll have the job again because of his defensive prowess, particularly his throwing arm and his ability to manage games. The Sox are hoping he can improve on a .235 average, 9 HR and 36 RBIs.

Men’s basketball: Texas, Texas Tech open NCAA play today

North Texas coach Grant McCasland. North Texas beat UTSA 59-48 on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Grant McCasland’s Texas Tech Red Raiders open the NCAA tournament Thursday against North Carolina State. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Six teams from the state of Texas will tip off in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament over the next few days. Texas and Texas Tech will play Thursday, followed by Houston, Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M on Friday. We’ll take a look at Thursday’s matchups:

Thursday’s games

Round of 64

Texas vs. Colorado State, 5:50 p.m. on TNT — The seventh-seeded Longhorns (20-12) open with 10 seed Colorado State (25-10) at Charlotte, N.C., in the Midwest Region. Winner will advance to play either 2 seed Tennessee or No. 15 Saint Peter’s in the R32. A scary matchup for Coach Rodney Terry’s Longhorns. The Rams, led by guard Nique Clifford and forward Joel Scott, scorched Virginia 67-42 in a First Four game Tuesday in Dayton. The Longhorns went 9-9, finished tied for seventh in the Big 12 and lost in the first round of the conference tournament.

Local angle: Texas junior Ze’Rik Onyema, a 6-8 forward from Jay HS, transfer from UTEP.

Texas Tech vs. North Carolina State, 8:40 p.m. on CBS — The sixth-seeded Red Raiders (23-10) take on No. 11 North Carolina State (22-14) at Pittsburgh in the South. The winner will move on to play either 3 seed Kentucky or No. 14 Oakland, Mich. First-year Tech coach Grant McCasland was riding high with four straight wins, including an 81-67 victory over BYU at the Big 12 tournament, before he ran into the Houston Cougars. UH throttled Tech 82-59 in the B12 semis. Tech guard Darrion Williams sat out the Houston game with an ankle injury he suffered against BYU. Injured seven-foot center Warren Washington has played in only one game since Feb. 12. The Wolfpack made a shocking five-wins-in-five-days run to the ACC tournament title.

Texas Tech, TCU and Texas A&M to play for regional titles today

One team from the state of Texas has advanced to the Super Regional round and three others remain in the hunt leading into Monday’s games in the NCAA baseball tournament.

Here are the details:

Gainesville Regional — Texas Tech (2-1 in the regional) plays host Florida (3-1) at 11 a.m. in the championship game. How did Tech get here? Florida beat Tech 7-1 Saturday night to force a deciding game. What’s next? The winner will move on to the Super Regional round against South Carolina.

Fayetteville Regional — Undefeated TCU (2-0 in the regional) and Arkansas (2-1) play at 2 p.m. in the finals. Another game will follow at 8 p.m., if necessary. TCU needs to win one game to claim the title. Arkansas needs to win twice. How did TCU get here? The Frogs beat the Razorbacks 20-5 Saturday to remain undefeated. Later, Razorbacks beat Santa Clara 6-4 to reach the finals. What’s next? The winner will advance to the Super Regional round against Indiana State.

Stanford Regional — Texas A&M (2-1 in the regional) and host Stanford (3-1) play at 8 p.m. in the championship game. How did A&M get here? Stanford downed the Aggies 13-5 Saturday night to force a deciding game. What’s next? The winner will play the Texas Longhorns in the Super Regional round.

Notable

The Longhorns completed a 3-0 sweep to the Coral Gables Regional title Saturday afternoon when they downed the Miami Hurricanes, 10-6. Texas has advanced to the Super Regionals. Both the Dallas Baptist Patriots and Sam Houston State Bearkats were eliminated Saturday night. Oral Roberts won the Stillwater Regional title with a 6-5 victory over Dallas Baptist (2-2) in the finals. Oregon State downed Sam Houston State (1-2) in an elimination game at the Baton Rouge Regional.

Eye on S.A.-area talent

Dominic Tamez, a junior at Alabama from San Antonio’s Johnson High School, produced two hits, two runs scored and an RBI on Sunday night as the Crimson Tide shut out Boston College 8-0 to win the Tuscaloosa Regional. Tamez also had two hits and two RBIs in an 11-8 victory over Troy on Saturday night. By winning the Tuscaloosa Regional, Alabama will advance to face national No. 1 seeded Wake Forest in the Super Regional round.

Eye on teams from Texas

Texas: 41-20
Texas Tech: 41-22
TCU: 39-22
Texas A&M: 38-26
Dallas Baptist: 47-16
Sam Houston State: 39-25

Texas wins Coral Gables Regional with a 10-6 victory over Miami

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Trailing by three runs early, the Texas Longhorns scored nine in the third inning and went on to claim the NCAA Coral Gables Regional title with a 10-6 victory over the Miami Hurricanes.

The Longhorns erupted for nine runs on seven hits in the third. San Antonio’s Jalin Flores capped the outburst with a grand slam over the center field wall. Flores is a UT freshman from Brandeis High School.

Texas won the regional by winning three games in three days at the home of the Hurricanes. On Friday, they downed the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, 4-2. On Saturday, they rode the pitching of Lebarron Johnson Jr. to a 4-1 victory over Miami, sending the Hurricanes into the losers bracket.

After downing Louisiana 8-5 on Sunday morning, Miami advanced to the finals, where it would need two victories over Texas to win the title. UT didn’t let that happen even though at times, the pitching was shaky. Starter Tanner Witt gave up an early three-run homer and was lifted after two innings.

In the third, UT went on an extended offensive run. Big hits early in the uprising including an RBI double by Jared Thomas and a two-run single by Peyton Powell. Later, Garret Guillemette stroked a two-run double. At that point, Miami reliever Carlos Lequerica walked two batters to load the bases.

Flores, the next man up, sized up the first pitch from Lequerica and sent it over the wall for his fourth home run of the season. The blow energized the UT dugout and gave the Longhorns a 9-3 lead.

With the lead, Longhorns reliever Charlie Hurley kept the Hurricanes in check until Yohandy Morales smacked a three-run homer in the seventh inning. The blow trimmed UT’s lead to 10-6. Closer Zane Morehouse entered in the seventh to finish out the game, pitching 2 and 2/3 scoreless while striking out seven.

Next week, Texas (41-20) will play in the Super Regional round of the NCAA tournament against either longtime rival Texas A&M or national No. 8 seed Stanford. A&M and Stanford were playing late Sunday in the finals of the Stanford Regional. A&M can claim the regional title with one victory. Stanford needs to win twice to claim the title.

Johnson’s complete game keeps Texas undefeated at the Coral Gables Regional

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Texas Longhorns pitcher Lebarron Johnson Jr. barely could find the words to describe what it felt like to throw a complete game in the NCAA tournament. To fire a season-high 129 pitches and to beat the national No. 9-seeded Miami Hurricanes, 4-1, on their home field.

“It was surreal, honestly,” Johnson, a redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville, Fla., told ESPN. “I just knew I had to keep going for my team, for my pen, for my offense. I just tried to dig deep. I thank the Lord for allowing me to get through it.”

The Longhorns, likewise, are thanking Johnson for a sterling performance that allowed them to improve to 2-0 in the NCAA Coral Gables Regional.

With the win, they’ll play Sunday night for the regional title. In the first game Sunday, the Hurricanes will face the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in a battle of once-beaten teams. The loser will be eliminated, while the winner will move into the title round against the Longhorns.

Texas’ opponent will need to win Sunday night and again on Monday to claim the regional title. Meaning, of course, that the Longhorns like their chances of playing next week in the Super Regional round.

In the aftermath of the victory, Johnson spoke to ESPN television broadcasters on the field, still wide-eyed about what he had done.

“It’s surreal, honestly,” he said. “I’m still trying to process this.”

In completing nine innings, he allowed seven hits, one earned run and walked three while striking out eight. In one stretch, from the fourth through the seventh innings, he retired 11 straight. Johnson, who improved to 8-3 on the season, said Texas coach David Pierce approached him after the eighth inning to ask him how he felt.

“He came to me,” Johnsons said. “He said, ‘Do you want it? I said, ‘Yes, sir. I’ll try my best.’ ”

To start the game, the Longhorns jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Dylan Campbell supplied the fireworks with a two-run homer.

Johnson, in turn, endured a rough go of it. He loaded the bases on a walk, a single and another walk. Luckily for him, the Hurricanes couldn’t get anything out of it.

“I had to get my nerves out of the way, honestly,” he said. “I was nervous coming in, with the rain delay and all that. I just knew that I had to trust my work. Trust my coaches. Trust my ability to go out there and do my job. I just had to pull through for my team.”

The Longhorns added single runs in the second and third, pushing out to a 4-0 lead. San Antonio’s Jalin Flores, a freshman from Brandeis, figured in the scoring with an RBI single in the third.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Hurricanes finally broke through. Dominic Pitelli led off with a solo home run. That, however, is all that they would get the rest of the way.

The Hurricanes threatened in the eighth and ninth, but came up empty each time.

Statistics would indicate that Johnson might have been building toward something like this for the past six weeks. In his last six starts, he threw 91, 85, 112, 83, 101 and 95 pitches. So, it wasn’t totally surprising to see coaches let him go out for the last inning.

“I’m from Florida, so I’m kind of used to this (heat) a little bit,” he said. “The tiredness kicked in a little bit. But I just knew I needed to dig deep … execute pitches and trust my team.”

Pitching, highlight-reel defense lift Texas to victory in the Coral Gables Regional

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Outfielders Eric Kennedy and Dylan Campbell made highlight-worthy defensive plays to back the pitching of lefthander Lucas Gordon on Friday as the Texas Longhorns downed the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns 4-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Coral Gables Regional.

In addition, Campbell had two hits and two RBIs and set the Big 12 record by hitting safely in his 36th straight game. Texas (39-20) advances in the regional to play Saturday night against the regional’s host team, the Miami Hurricanes (41-19).

Miami hit three home runs and downed the Maine Black Bears, 9-1, in the late game Friday night. The Hurricanes are the No. 9 seed nationally and the region’s No. 1. The Longhorns are seeded No. 2 in the region.

Locked in a scoreless defensive battle through five innings, the Cajuns and the Longhorns both started to score in the sixth. In the top half, a double by Heath Hood, followed by an RBI single from Connor Higgs, lifted the Cajuns into a 1-0 lead. Texas added two in the bottom half.

For the Longhorns, Mitchell Daly led off the inning with a solo homer to left. Later, San Antonio’s Porter Brown produced the go-ahead run with an RBI single to right. Texas was up 2-1 at that point and would not relinquish the lead. Kennedy added a two-run double in the seventh for a 4-1 spread.

Louisiana’s Carson Roccaforte hit a solo homer in the eighth to account for the final run.

The game may have turned on two defensive plays by the Longhorns. In the fourth inning, Kennedy, playing center, ranged back and slightly into right center while tracking a drive by John Taylor. He leaped at the fence and caught the would-be, three-run homer for the third out.

In the sixth, Campbell, the UT right fielder, raced toward the foul line, dove nearly parallel to the ground and snagged a drive by Roccaforte. If he hadn’t caught it, Roccaforte would have had at least a triple and the Cajuns might have been off and running toward a big inning. The remarkable play preceded the hits by Hood and Higgs.

Gordon worked seven innings and gave up one run on five hits. He improved his record to 6-1 on the season and lowered his earned run average to 2.55. Righthander Jackson Nezue (9-6) was hard-luck losing pitcher, charged with two runs in five plus innings.

Gainesville Regional

Zac Vooletich ripped a two-run single in the fifth inning and Brandon Beckel pitched two innings of scoreless relief Friday, helping the Texas Tech Red Raiders defeat the Connecticut Huskies 3-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Gainesville Regional.

With the victory, the Red Raiders (40-21) will advance in the winners bracket to play Saturday against the regional host Florida Gators (45-14). Florida is the No. 2 national seed and the No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional. Texas Tech is the region’s third seed.

Vooletich, a senior from Brandeis, played as the designated hitter for the third-seeded Red Raiders. He entered the day with a .406 batting average. In the fifth inning, he came up to bat with one out and the bases loaded against UConn reliever Zach Fogell. Vooletich responded with a single up the middle to score Kevin Bazzell and Austin Green.

Beckel, a 6-foot-4 junior from Antonian, entered the game in the bottom of the seventh as a reliever for starter Mason Molina. He inherited trouble, with runners at first and second. After a wild pitch allowed the runners to move up, they both scored, one on a ground ball and another on a single.

Both runs were charged to Molina. Beckel settled down to finish two innings and keep the Red Raiders in the lead. He allowed two hits and struck out one. Molina (6-2) earned the victory and Josh Sanders, who pitched the ninth, got the save.

Stillwater Regional

Walloped by the Washington Huskies on Friday, the Dallas Baptist Patriots will play an elimination game Saturday at 2 p.m. against the regional host Oklahoma State Cowboys.

The Cowboys also lost on Friday, falling 6-4 in a stunner to the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.

Oklahoma State entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 11 national seed and the No. 1 seed in the four-team region. Dallas Baptist, the regular-season champion in Conference USA, entered the weekend as the region’s No. 2 seed, followed in order by Washington and Oral Roberts.

In Friday’s first game, the Huskies surprised the Patriots, 9-5, as they jumped all over Dallas Baptist ace righthander Ryan Johnson. Michael Snyder and Johnny Tincher hit homers in a seven-run fifth inning as Washington took an 8-1 lead.

The Patriots battled back by scoring three runs in their half of the fifth and one more in the seventh. Undaunted, Snyder answered, adding an RBI double in the eighth inning for the final run.

Winning in basketball on a disconcerting day: Texas beats Rice 87-81 in overtime

Capping a long and disconcerting day for the Texas Longhorns, the players stayed together, maintained level heads through an uneven start and then finished with a flourish to down the Rice Owls, 87-81, in overtime.

Guard Marcus Carr led seventh-ranked UT with 28 points, including eight in overtime, at UT’s sparkling new Moody Center arena. Sir’Jabari Rice also hit some key buckets in the extra period.

All night, though, it was coach Rodney Terry who stepped in under difficult circustances to steady the Longhorns against Quincy Olivari, Travis Evee and the hot-shooting Owls.

Arguably one of the worst days in UT’s basketball history started early Monday morning with the shocking arrest of Texas head coach Chris Beard, who was charged with felony family violence.

The arrest stemmed from an overnight altercation in which a woman told police that Beard strangled and bit her, according to the Associated Press, the Austin American-Statesman and other Austin media outlets which cited information in an affidavit.

In the wake of Beard’s afternoon release from jail on bond, the university announced that the coach had been suspended without pay “until further notice.”

With Beard’s status uncertain and Terry working as head coach on the bench, UT players, perhaps understandably, seemed a bit out of sorts initially.

The Owls played loose and free and jumped out to an early nine-point lead, and then after the Horns closed to within one, pushed it back to 10 points with two minutes left in the half.

Leading by four at intermission, Rice continued to hit perimeter shots and traded momentum with UT in a closely-contested match.

At the end of regulation, the Owls had a chance to win but missed a shot from the side in the final seconds, sending it to overtime.

“We showed a lot of grit,” Terry said on the UT’s postgame radio broadcast. “(We) battled through some adversity throughout the course of the day, in the game, earlier today, as well. I give my guys a lot of credit. I give our staff a lot of credit.”

With Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice leading the way, the Longhorns outscored the Owls 15-9 in the extra period.

Olivari led the Owls with 28 points, his third consecutive game with 20 or more, and Travis Evee added 19.

For the Longhorns, Timmy Allen scored 15, while freshman Dillon Mitchell produced 12 points and nine rebounds. Off the bench, Rice scored 11, and Brock Cunningham added six points and 10 boards.

“We’ve got an experienced staff that did a great job,” Terry said. “Again, our guys were right where they needed to be at winning time. We’ve been in that position. We’re going to be in that position all year. You know, we found a way to get it done.”

It’s not immediately clear how long Beard will be out.

The coach didn’t answer questions when he left the jail with his attorney, Perry Minton, according to the AP.

Minton declined comment but earlier told the American-Statesman that the coach is innocent.

“He should never have been arrested,” Minton told the newspaper. “The complainant wants him released immediately and all charges dismissed. It is truly inconceivable.”

UT said in a statement that it “takes matters of interpersonal violence involving members of its community seriously.”

According to the AP, the university did not commit to Terry as the acting coach for the Longhorns beyond Monday night.

Terry previously worked at UT as an assistant coach under Rick Barnes before moving on to become a head coach at Fresno State (2011-18) and UTEP (2018-21). He is in his second season as a UT associate head coach under Beard.

Editor’s note: This story was written from San Antonio with help from the UT radio broadcast and with supplemental statistical information from the school’s website.