Texas State misses out on first NCAA Super Regional, losing to Stanford in ninth-inning comeback

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As Texas State took to the field for the end of the ninth inning, coach Steven Trout said he was confident pitcher Zeke Wood would hit three outs and send the program to its first super regional in the NCAA.

But after the Bobcats’ Wesley Faison hit a two-run single in the top of the ninth to break a deadlock, the No. 2 seed Stanford responded down the frame with back-to-back homers to tie the game.

Four batters later, Trevor Haskins hit a low line into left field for Monday’s 4-3 victory at the Sunken Diamond in Stanford, Calif., giving the host Cardinal the NCAA regional crown.

The Bobcats (47-14) finished the year with a record winning total in the program, but found themselves three outs from their first NCAA regional victory.

“That game must have been, besides losing, one of the best games I’ve been in,” Trout said. “I just told them to let it fly. We have nothing to lose. There is no pressure on us tonight. Find a way to deal with it and do what we’ve been doing all year.

Making their sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their first since 2011, the Bobcats opened with a 7-3 win over UC Santa Barbara on Friday and a 5-2 win over Stanford (45-15) on Saturday.

Needing just one more win to advance to super regionals, the Bobcats lost 8-4 to the Cardinal on Sunday, setting the stage for Monday’s heartbreak. With Connecticut emerging as an unlikely winner in the region featuring No. 15 Maryland, Texas State would have hosted a super regional in San Marcos with a win on Monday.

Trout and many of the players appeared to have tears in their eyes as he addressed the group in the minutes after the final batting, and some of the Bobcats moved around the dugout exchanging hugs with their teammates.

In his third year, Trout guided Texas State to a rebound, as last season’s 21-36 record marked the worst season since the program’s first year in 1984.

“It’s not tears of sadness, it’s pride,” Trout said. “I’m just grateful for them. I’m happy for them. And I told them before they came here, all I want you to do is enjoy it and play as hard as you can. And at the end of the day, make people fall in love with the Bobcats. I think we have accomplished that.

Playing for the fourth time in four days, Texas State turned to Tristan Stivors, the NCAA leader in saves with 18, to make his first start since his final season at New Mexico Junior College in 2019.

Stivors, a Medina Valley product, answered the call with career highs of seven innings and 101 pitches, allowing just one run on eight hits and a walk with a record nine strikeouts. Prior to Monday, Stivors’ longest outing in three years with the Bobcats was 3 2/3 innings.

Trout said he handed the ball to Stivors to give Texas State the best possible start, adding that Stivors “keep fighting me” to stay in the game through the middle innings.

“I hope this kid makes it to the big leagues because he has the stuff and the guts to do it,” Trout said. “Two or three (rounds) would tickle me, four would be great, and seven was a dream come true.”

With the score tied 1-1 entering the ninth inning, Texas State’s Cameron Gibbons and Isaiah Ortega-Jones started with back-to-back walks, and Gibbons moved up to third on a fly ball to the right. After a strikeout, Stanford intentionally walked Jose Gonzalez to load the bases.

Before Faison intervened, Trout warned him to be ready for a first pitch fastball. Describing Faison as “more of a fly ball hitter” who often gets under the pitches, Trout said he was happy to see Faison stay over one and drive him to center field for a two-run single. The Bobcats were 1-of-11 with runners in scoring position before Faison’s breakthrough.

“He doesn’t do that often – the line comes back in the middle,” Trout said. “But in that moment he bought into exactly what we were doing and took the biggest swing of his life.”

Wood, Texas State’s usual No. 1 starter, made the first relief appearance of his career for the Bobcats, going through the eighth inning with a pair of strikeouts before running into trouble in the ninth.

On the second pitch from Wood’s frame, Drew Bowser lasered a fastball low off the wall into left field, cutting the lead to 3-2. Just two pitches later, Tommy Troy hammered another fastball from the camera tower past the center field wall, tying the score.

Just three days after throwing 105 pitches Friday for the win over UC Santa Barbara, Wood and many other Texas State pitchers tested their weapons with a catch-up game Monday afternoon to see if they could be ready to take the mound against Stanford.

“I just said to him, ‘Man, I’m so proud of you. What a bold effort,” Trout said. “You didn’t go out there and walk with a bunch of guys. They took two nice swings on fastballs, and you made them win.

The Bobcats then turned to No. 2 starter Levi Wells, who threw 107 pitches and earned a win over the Cardinal on Saturday. Eddie Park hosted it with a single the other way, then advanced to second on a sacrificial bunt, putting the winning run in scoring position with one out.

After Brock Jones received an intentional walk and the runners went second and third on wild pitch, Haskins hit a single against a full count to seal the win.

“What an unreal game. The last regional game pushed him to the brink,” Trout said. “I’m just glad they got to play in times like tonight.”

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Twitter: @GregLuca

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