OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Two of Skip Johnson’s pupils did him proud on the same night.
A couple hours after Chad Hollingsworth held UC Irvine to four hits in a win Wednesday that kept Texas alive in the College World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw finished the first no-hitter of his career against the Colorado Rockies.
“I think that probably was one of his best days in a while,” Hollingsworth said Thursday, referring to the Longhorns’ pitching coach.
Kershaw began taking pitching lessons from Johnson when he was a high school senior in Dallas, and he continues to work with Johnson in Austin each offseason.
Kershaw signed a $215 million, seven-year contract this past offseason. He pays Johnson nothing for his services. Johnson probably wouldn’t accept money from Kershaw even if he offered.
“Coach (Augie) Garrido says it best,” Johnson said, “that what you’re in it for is the relationships, and you see that you played a part in his life - a structured plan that I’ve set him with, and God did the rest. His ability is God-given, and his humility is above and beyond.”
Hollingsworth said he sees Kershaw around the Longhorns’ baseball facilities often and appreciates that Johnson treats every pitcher the same, be it Kershaw or a freshman.
“He’s going to work just as hard with you as he does with Kershaw,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s nice to see that. He doesn’t give up on any guy.”
START WITH SBORZ: It’s not lip service when Virginia coach Brian O’Connor says he trusts Josh Sborz. He was O’Connor’s No. 2 starter for most of the season but was sent to the bullpen for the Cavaliers’ last ACC series and conference tournament, with Artie Lewicki taking his place.
O’Connor brought Sborz back as a starter for the NCAA tournament, and the sophomore pitched seven shutout innings in the super regional-clinching win over Maryland. He’ll be on the mound Friday in Virginia’s bracket final.
“We’ve always tweaked things as it has come toward the end of the season and went with the hot hand,” O’Connor said, referring to Lewicki. “So there are a couple weeks that he got the short end of it, but I think he handled it like a champion, like a team guy, and kept waiting for his opportunity. Wouldn’t you know it? He got a chance to pitch us to Omaha, and now he’s going to have a chance to pitch and put his team into the national championship series.”
SUBSTITUTE CLOSER: Texas used Travis Duke as its closer against UC Irvine on Wednesday because John Curtiss came down with stomach flu before the game. Duke got the last two outs for his second save of the CWS.
“I call him ‘Denny the Rodeo Clown’ because he’s not afraid of the bull,” pitching coach Skip Johnson said in a nod to the famous clown on the pro rodeo circuit. “He’s not afraid of failing. There are going to be failures in this game and he goes out and attacks it. That’s a beautiful thing about him.”
Curtiss, who has nine saves, should be available to pitch Friday against Vanderbilt.
KEEPING IT IN PERSPECTIVE: UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie was ready to move on emotionally after his team was eliminated.
“You get a little perspective when you stop to think about what’s gone on in this part of the area outside of Omaha called Pilger, and you realize the town has been leveled, and then you know what real loss is,” Gillespie said. “So we think about those people, and our hearts go out to those people.”
Two people died and much of Pilger, about 100 miles northwest of Omaha, was destroyed by a tornado Monday.
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