Big 12 Campus Correspondent
It is a cliché as old as sports - "The guy who leads by example" - but no one may exemplify the phrase better than Texas Longhorns junior pitcher Taylor Jungmann.
"Taylor isn't one of those rah-rah guys," junior shortstop Brandon Loy said. "He just dedicates every minute to being the best he can be. That is something that everyone notices."
The All-American's dedication goes way beyond the pitcher's mound.
"Taylor is a pitcher," head coach Augie Garrido said. "Everything he does is geared towards being a better pitcher -- his diet, his workout schedule, his bullpen schedule, everything. He has a grasp of what it takes to be a successful pitcher on the next level and he does everything in his power to stay on that track. And it is something that is rubbing off on the younger guys like Corey (Knebel) and Hoby (Milner)."
This season, Jungmann is off to a phenomenal start. He opened the season with the first-ever opening-day, nine-inning, complete-game shutout in school history. He's stayed steady and now owns a 5-0 record with a 0.52 ERA. On the season, opponents are batting just .152 against him, and he has issued just five walks while striking out 42 in 51.2 innings.
Jungmann has also pitched well enough to be considered for Big 12 Pitcher of the Week accolades on a regular basis. The junior claimed the conference honor on Feb. 21 and earned the NCBWA Pro-Line Athletic National Pitcher of the Week for his complete game shutout of Maryland on opening weekend. Five of his six starts have resulted in shutouts for the Longhorns, including complete-game shutouts in each of the first two games. In his last three starts, Jungmann has pitched 25.0 scoreless innings, allowing 12 hits and four walks while striking out 15.
The only runs Jungmann has yielded on the year were three runs in a 4-3 win over nationally-ranked Stanford. He entered the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead, but ran out of gas.
"That was disappointing," Jungmann said. "I got out in front of the first two batters with 1-2 counts, but I didn't make smart pitches and both guys got hits. Every time I take the mound, I want to finish what I started, but I didn't do it that day."
Jungmann had an outstanding freshman campaign in 2009 and saved his best two performances for when the Longhorns needed them the most. In the deciding game of the Super Regional against TCU, the northpaw scattered two hits and one walk while striking out five over 6.0 innings as the Longhorns built a 5-0 lead. He handed the ball to closers Austin Wood and Chance Ruffin who held the Horned Frogs in check in the 5-2 victory, sending Texas to the College World Series.
"For a freshman to be able to do the things that he did, that was pretty impressive," the opposing pitcher TCU's Tyler Lockwood said that day. "To be able to handle that situation with a chance to go to Omaha in an elimination game and to get that kind of performance out of a freshman is pretty unbelievable."
In game two of the CWS Championship Series, Jungmann pitched his first career complete game, holding LSU's prolific offense to one unearned run on five hits and two walks while striking out nine over 9.0 innings.
Last season, Jungmann's career continued on the upswing. He notched an 8-3 record with a 2.03 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 120 innings. He was named a first-team All-America by Baseball America and named a second-team All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Despite all the accolades he earned, Jungmann spotted a weakness in his game and he worked to improve it over the offseason. He felt he wasn't getting deep enough into games, averaging 7.06 innings per start.
"I really wanted to become more efficient this season," Jungmann said. "The last couple years, I was trying to strike out guys who I probably could have gotten out with two or three pitches if I put pitches in the right location. Instead, I was striking out nine or 10 through the first four or five innings, but being up over 60 or 70 pitches, I'm trying to be smarter - still give hitters tough pitches to hit, but pitches they will put into play and let my defense do their work."
His effort has paid off to date as Jungmann has worked at least eight innings in all six of his starts, and he's averaging 8.6 innings worked every time he takes the mound.
"This is a way for me to help the team win in games I'm not pitching in," Jungmann said. "As the Friday starter, if I can help the team win that first game of the series without going deep into the bullpen, it gives us a better chance to win on Saturday and Sunday. It's a way of having an effect on all three days even though I can only pitch on Friday."
His quiet demeanor doesn't just show in the dugout and locker room, but is evident after the game. Time after time, following brilliant pitching performances, when others would be beaming with excitement to talk about their day's endeavors, Jungmann quietly converses with the media and breaks down his performance in the same workman-type effort he put in on the mound.
"I don't like talking about my performance because it's a team game," Jungmann said. "And there are always nine or more other guys who had a hand in the win. I'm just doing my job like they are."