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Horns Can't Solve Hales
After Friday night's emotional loss to the Longhorns, quitting would have been a convenient option.
The Aggies woke up early to make the two-hour bus trip just a few hours after playing a late game.
None of it mattered to left-hander Ross Hales.
A freshman, Hales has no memory of Texas' recent dominance over their in-state rivals. He also didn't play in Friday night's tiring contest.
Hales pitched their Aggies to their biggest victory of the season. He was sensational, tossing a complete game, three-hit shutout, carrying the Aggies to a 3-0 win.
"We talked about [bouncing back] this morning," said Texas A&M Head Coach Rob Childress. "Not a whole lot of people gave us a chance after last night's emotional loss -- getting up early and the bus pulling out at 7:30 and getting off the bus and playing. But Ross Hales answered the bell."
You can say that again.
The Longhorns got one baserunner to second base. The entire game. That runner, shortstop Brandon Loy, singled and reached second on an error. Hales came back to strike out left fielder Tant Shepherd, and Texas' biggest threat of the day was in the books. If you could call it a threat.
Texas has faced its share of outstanding pitchers this season, including Brooks Raley on Friday night, who entered the game with some of the best numbers in the nation. But no pitcher dominated the ‘Horns quite like Hales did on Saturday.
Hales credited his ability to locate all three of his pitches.
"I used all my pitches," said Hales. "Coach Childress did a great job of mixing everything up out there. I was mixing my fastball and curveball and then coming back with changeups. Gonzo [Kevin Gonzalez] did a great job behind the plate, blocking those curveballs in the dirt."
The Baytown native didn't walk a batter in the game. He didn't have a three-ball count on UT hitter until the eighth inning. Texas Coach Augie Garrido simply tipped his hat to Hales.
"This is about as dominant as it can get," he said. "We have to recognize the brilliance of the moment. He seized the moment when his team needed him to do this. He did it. Pretty cool. We don't like that it's against us, but that's the way life is in the jungle."
Longhorns starting pitcher Cole Green matched Hales step-for-step in the early going.
Green held the Aggies hitless for the first 3.2 innings, and he appeared to be on top of his game.
And just as he did last night, Texas A&M outfielder Kyle Colligan struck with a round-tripper. The senior belted a solo shot to left-center field in the fourth, giving the Aggies a 1-0 lead.
Texas A&M took advantage of some shakiness from Green in the fifth inning. David Alleman led off the inning with a walk, then Kevin Gonzalez doubled to left-center on a perfectly executed hit-and-run.
Leadoff hitter Brodie Greene poked a single to centerfield, scoring both runs and extending A&M's lead to 3-0.
The Aggies might as well have scored 15 runs in that inning. With the way Hales was pitching, it simply didn't matter.
The Longhorns called on Brandon Workman to stop the bleeding in the fifth inning. The tall right-hander had struggled in recent outings, but he rebounded to pitch four hitless innings on Saturday. Workman walked three and struck out five.
"I was locating my breaking ball really well today," Workman said. "I've struggled a lot at that recently. It has kind of made me one-dimensional to where I have to throw a lot of fastballs and they can sit on it. I was able to locate my breaking ball so it kept guys off-balance. They didn't know what was coming today."
In addition to Workman's encouraging performance, Garrido felt his club had a number of positives to take away from the game.
"The game was pretty well played," Garrido explained. "Our pitching was fine. The kinds of things that happen as a result of our pitching revealed that we can play defense. It was a pretty clean game by both teams."
But as Garrido said, the day was all about Hales.
"The brilliant moment belonged to [Hales]. It really did. I choose to recognize that, even when it's the opponent. I have a hard time trying to take away from that because they're hard to come by. And when they're there, I think you need to recognize them."
Saturday's loss for the Longhorns sets up some high drama for Sunday's series finale and rubber match.
Four teams remain in the Big 12 Championship race. With a win in game three, Texas cannot officially clinch a regular season championship, but they can make it extremely likely.
For more analysis on the conference race, visit the Horns House message board.
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