BASEBALL: Super stop (by a starter): Shugart books Texas’ first Super Regional since 2014

Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded with one out, Indiana batting as the “home” team on Texas’ home turf, trailing 3-2.

Right-hander Chase Shugart — who started Texas’ 10-0 win over Texas Southern — is called to the mound.

“Throughout the week, the plan was to pitch Sunday and be on a pitch count,” Shugart said.

Shugart struck out the next two Hoosiers in nine pitches, and Texas earned its first trip to the Super Regionals since 2014. It was his second save of the season and first since March 8 against Stanford.

A Bridge City guy got the job done. And Shugart’s high school coach missed it.

“I texted him and told him, ‘You didn’t tell me you were going to pitch Sunday,’” Chad Landry said.

Shugart said he left that text alone, thinking Landry was mad.

“… But it was all good,” Landry said.

 

CARDINAL GROWS UP

Shugart, who graduated from Bridge City in 2015, looked up to Landry in high school. The Nederland alumnus has his own Big 12 credentials, having played first base and right field at Texas Tech from 2000-01 after transferring from Seminole (Oklahoma) Junior College.

“He’s a great coach and a better man,” Shugart said of Landry. “He takes a professional approach to the high school game and does things the right way.”

Playing alongside cousin Ryne, Shugart won a district MVP award and made all-state for the Cardinals. He went 10-1 with a 1.64 ERA as a junior and was named Perfect Game Underclass third-team All-American while catching the attention of Texas coaching great Augie Garrido.

“I think he’s always had the fire, the ability,” Landry said. “Mentally, now, he’s 100 percent confident, but there was a little doubt in him when he was in high school.”

The key to Shugart’s growth, Landry said, was knowing how to handle the good and difficult times in baseball.

“Baseball’s a game of failure, so there’s always failure,” Landry said.

 

BECOMING A STARTER

Certainly, Shugart has been good enough to see playing time in each of his three seasons on the Forty Acres.

He went 2-3 with a 4.53 ERA as a true freshman but made five saves as the Longhorns failed to earn an NCAA tournament bid in Garrido’s final season.

The next season, Shugart threw a career-low 3.43 ERA with three saves and went 3-2 as Texas reached the championship round of the Long Beach State regional before dropping two straight to the host 49ers.

After his sophomore year, Shugart traveled to the Cape Cod Baseball League, a summer program for college players in Massachusetts, and played for the Cotuit Kettleers. That’s where he first worked into a starting rotation as a collegian.

“The amount of talent NCAA baseball has” stood out most to Shugart during his time on Cape Cod.

“I was picking the brains of other guys on hitting and pitching,” he said. “I feel like I matured a lot.”

The maturation helped the 5-foot-10, 180-pound youth and community studies major work into Texas’ starting rotation. He’s 5-3 this season with a 4.39 ERA and 14 starts in 17 appearances, having helped the Longhorns win the Big 12 regular-season championship.

But no start was bigger than throwing six innings of four-hit scoreless baseball and striking out five in Friday’s opening-round shutout of SWAC champion Texas Southern. And no save was bigger than Sunday’s effort against Indiana.

“Sunday was an outer-body experience,” Shugart said. “Coach [David Pierce] trusted me with my arm. I bounce back better than anybody on the team.”

No matter where Shugart is placed in the Longhorns’ lineup, he’s going to be successful, Landry said.

“His mindset is, give me the ball. I’ll get it done,” he added. “But to verbally say it and do it, that’s that difference between Chase and other pitchers.”

 

LEARNING FROM THE BEST

Garrido, who died March 15 at age 79, three days after suffering a stroke, was the winningest Division I baseball coach with 1,975 wins when he retired after the 2016 season. Florida State’s Mike Martin, who has 1,987 wins, surpassed Garrido last month.

Shugart said Garrido — who won two of his five national championships at UT (2002, 2005) — had a big mindset for each baseball game and taught his pitchers the importance of such.

“The mindset is that you’re a bulldog, and you’re in a game to fight,” he said.

Shugart has learned “the little things” about baseball from Pierce, a former Sam Houston State and Tulane head coach whom Shugart said has admitted to learning some things about coaching from Garrido.

“Some of the players don’t know it yet, but I know it because I played under coach Garrido,” Shugart said.

Then, there’s Roger Clemens.

The 1983 national champion pitcher for the Longhorns (Garrido led Cal State Fullerton to its second title the next year) and seven-time Cy Young winner has a son, Kody, who was just named Big 12 player of the year. Kody Clemens, a second baseman with 21 home runs on the season, was drafted 79th overall by the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.

The older Clemens visits Texas’ practice at times and imparts his knowledge on the pitching staff.

“Roger comes around when he can,” Shugart said. “He teaches us how he gets his mind around a game. After Friday’s game, he told me everything looked good mechanically. After Sunday, he told me I lived in the moment, and I didn’t let that moment handle me.”

 

WHERE TO, CHAD?

Texas (40-20), the No. 13 national seed in the NCAA playoffs, gets to host this week’s sold-out, best-of-three Super Regional series against Tennessee Tech (52-10) — to the surprise of most college baseball fans. Game 1 starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, with Game 2 set for 2 p.m. Sunday and Game 3, if necessary, at noon Monday. ESPN2 will carry the entire series.

Tennessee Tech is located in Cookeville, just to the east of Nashville on Interstate 40. The Golden Eagles attained an at-large berth after dropping two to Morehead State in the Ohio Valley Conference championship tournament and have made good on the berth by upsetting No. 4-seeded Ole Miss in its regional final.

Shugart expects to start, but Texas has yet to release its probable for the series. He said he never heard of Tennessee Tech until this year.

“We have to rely on our pitching and defense,” Shugart said, asked how the Longhorns can avoid being the Eagles’ latest upset victim. “What we feed off is doing the little things right.”

Back in Bridge City, Landry has a decision to make.

“I’m here discussing it with my wife: Do I fly to Lubbock and watch my Red Raiders (who will host Duke in their Super Regional) or drive to Austin to see Shug?” he debated. “I guess the real question is, is [Shugart] going to give me tickets?”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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