If he had only his physical tools at his disposal, Taylor Jungmann would still be an exceptional pitcher.
The Texas junior looks 10 feet tall on the mound, though he’s really “only” 6-foot-6, with a mighty right arm that can sling a two-seam fastball with both velocity and precision.
But add in the fact that Jungmann is also a dutiful student of the game, and then he becomes something else altogether — unfair.
After two terrific seasons as a freshman and sophomore in which he tallied a combined 19-6 record, Jungmann has been darn near untouchable for the Longhorns this year. In 14 starts, he has fashioned a 12-0 record, three shutouts, four complete games and a 0.95 ERA, and is a natural choice as the Pitcher of the Year on the Tribune-Herald ’s 14th annual All-Big 12 Baseball Team.
Texas coach Augie Garrido recognized that Jungmann possessed an uncommon maturity in his freshman season back in 2009.
“He was mature from the get-go,” Garrido said. “You could always tell he was a world-class athlete, but he’s also a pitcher. He’s a pitcher 24-7, not just when he’s at the ballpark on game days. That translates to his diet, his routine. He doesn’t have the same workout regimen of a Cliff Lee or an Andy Pettitte, but he has the same thing on a different scale, that fits for college.”
Jungmann has great stuff, but you can’t hold college hitters to a .167 batting average — as the UT ace has done this year — with great stuff alone. Jungmann has the body of a power pitcher, but the mind of a technician.
“I’d like to think I was always a little more mature for my age,” said Jungmann, who won Super Centex Player of the Year honors in 2007 when he pitched Rogers to a Class 2A state title. “I’ve always been into the mental part of the game. I’ve always prided myself on staying on an even keel, and not getting too high or too low during the game.”
Garrido has seen more than his share of top-flight hurlers in his four-plus decades of coaching, and he compares Jungmann to Jered Weaver, the former Long Beach State stud who has developed into an all-star for the Los Angeles Angels.
“In my 15 years here (at Texas) we’ve had some fantastic pitching,” Garrido said. “Taylor is one of the most consistent pitchers we’ve had. He has shown steady improvement throughout his career, and that comes from a desire to learn and get better at his craft. It’s very unusual for a pitcher to step forward and improve from his freshman to his sophomore year, and then turn around and do it again from his sophomore to his junior year. But that is what Taylor has done.”
Player of the Year
Tyler Naquin, Texas A&M
College baseball’s new bats for 2011 were supposed to deaden hitters’ swings — and they have. All except for maybe Texas A&M sophomore outfielder Tyler Naquin, whose swing is more lively than ever.
Naquin is handling the new bats just fine, thank you, as he has produced a .401 batting average, 54 runs scored and 40 RBIs on his way to earning the Trib’s Big 12 Player of the Year award.
“Coming into the year, I knew about the new bat regulations, but I didn’t want to let it get in my head,” Naquin said. “You’ve got to go to the plate with confidence, whether you’re swinging the old bats or the new bats. If you think the new bats are crappy, you’ve got to put that out of your head, because you’re still going to have to swing with them anyway.”
Naquin, who played his high school ball at Klein Collins, hit just .244 as a freshman last year, but he busted out of the gate with a flurry this season. And once Big 12 play arrived, he picked up the pace even more, as he was hitting a conference-best .424 with 26 runs in 26 league games heading into Saturday’s action.
“This season has been a lot of fun,” Naquin said. “I try not to put any pressure on myself, but just knowing that your teammates trust you to come through in a big situation, to come up with a big hit, it’s a great feeling.”
Coach of the Year
Augie Garrido, Texas
Entering the year, the thought was that the game’s new bats would put a premium on pitching and defense again. Many observers believed that could benefit Augie Garrido’s Texas team, since his squads have always been known for that style of ball.
But the thing is, even if the new bats have benefited the Longhorns, you’ve still got to pitch and play defense.
“You’ve still got to play the game,” said Garrido, the Big 12 Coach of the Year for the second straight season and the third time overall. “You play the game, and hope for the best. If you handle the fundamentals, you’ll put yourself in good shape, but nobody controls the game.”
Picked second behind Oklahoma in the Big 12’s preseason poll, the Longorns established themselves as a force to be reckoned with behind another proficient pitching staff that leads the conference with a 2.20 staff ERA. With Friday’s 6-4 win over rival Texas A&M, the Horns clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament, their third straight conference title and the 25th conference title in Garrido’s illustrious 44-year career.
So, it’s got to be the bats right?
“Are the bats better for us? I don’t know. That’s just somebody’s opinion,” Garrido said. “I learned several years ago that the reason Texas has the vast geographical boundaries it does is because of all the opinions.”
Freshman of the Year
Corey Knebel, Texas
UT closer Corey Knebel still remembers the day he knew he’d wear the burnt orange of the Longhorns.
“It was April 12 of my junior year, and I was supposed to visit Oklahoma State the next day,” Knebel said. “But then Texas called, and asked me to visit. I ended up taking my visit there instead, and they offered me right after that.”
It turned out to be a good decision all the way around, as Knebel and the Horns have proven to be a happy marriage. The former Georgetown High starting pitcher seized UT’s closer job at the start of the season and has excelled ever since. He racked up a freshman-record 16 saves to go along with a 0.84 ERA and an opposing batting average of .129.
Garrido called Knebel “the college version of Mariano Rivera,” in that he does his damage with one primary pitch.
“There’s not a lot of variety of pitches there,” Garrido said. “If you can catch up to his fastball, you can hit him. But if he puts the fastball where it’s supposed to be, you’ve got no chance.”
Newcomer of the Year
Zach Johnson, Oklahoma St.
OSU slugger Zach Johnson lists “The Big Lebowski” as his all-time favorite movie.
He’s definitely been “the dude” for the Cowboys this year.
Johnson, a junior college transfer from Ohlone (Calif.) College, has swung his bat with a free and easy grace all season. The first baseman leads OSU with nine home runs and 54 RBIs, and is tied for the team lead with a .352 batting average.
Johnson displayed his all-around hitting talents in an April 29 win over Kansas State, when he became the first OSU player in eight years to hit for the cycle.
2011 Tribune-Herald All-Big 12 Baseball Team
|C||Tyler Ogle||Oklahoma||Jr||.341||9||42||51 runs|
|1B||Max Muncy||Baylor||So||.335||9||41||.537 slugging %|
|2B||Jamodrick McGruder||Texas Tech||So||.293||2||29||28 steals|
|SS||Brandon Loy||Texas||Jr||.329||1||22||12 steals|
|3B||Cody Asche||Nebraska||Jr||.315||12||54||.625 slugging %|
|OF||Tyler Naquin||Texas A&M||So||.401||2||40||54 runs|
|OF||Nick Martini||Kansas State||Jr||.335||1||40||21 steals|
|OF||Krey Bratsen||Texas A&M||Fr||.355||0||31||26 steals|
|DH||Dane Phillips||Oklahoma St.||So||.352||4||32||43 runs|
|UT||Brooks Pinckard||Baylor||Jr||.299||2||16||31 steals|
|SP||Ross Stripling||Texas A&M||Jr||11-2||2.09||3||83|
|RP||James Allen||Kansas St.||Jr||3-1||1.01||15||40|
|C||Jared Womack||Oklahoma St.||Jr||.288||8||45||.991 fielding %|
|1B||Zach Johnson||Oklahoma St.||Jr||.352||9||54||20 doubles|
|2B||Davis Duren||Oklahoma St.||Sr||.305||3||23||36 runs|
|SS||Kelby Tomlinson||Texas Tech||Jr||.303||1||43||20 steals|
|3B||Garrett Buechele||Oklahoma||Jr||.336||8||59||32 runs|
|OF||Erich Weiss||Texas||Fr||.376||3||25||.576 slugging %|
|OF||Barrett Barnes||Texas Tech||So||.289||9||35||42 runs|
|OF||Kash Kalkowski||Nebraska||So||.296||5||39||11 steals|
|DH||Jared King||Kansas State||Fr||.316||8||40||12 steals|
|UT||Ricky Eisenberg||Oklahoma||Sr||.370||1||16||0 errors|
|SP||John Stilson||Texas A&M||Jr||5-2||1.68||1||92|
|RP||John Neely||Texas Tech||Jr||9-1||2.88||7||53|
(Statistics through Friday’s games)