On June 1, 2003, the Houston Cougars won two games at #10 Texas A&M, both by the score of 7-6, to win the College Station Regional.
UH had an up-and-down season, ultimately finishing fourth in the conference. In the season’s final week, the Coogs traveled to #9 A&M for their last midweek game. In the top of the ninth, with Hyung Cho on second, Cole Bruce homered, and the Cougars won 8-6. On Thursday, Southern Miss came to town and bombed the Coogs, 19-11. USM scored 39 runs in three games, winning two.
UH traveled to New Orleans for the C-USA Tournament, but after beating ECU in the opener, top-seeded Southern Miss and ECU shut down the Cougar offense and sent them home.
When the Coogs were named a #3 seed and sent to Texas A&M, most thought it was a good draw. The team just needed to catch lightning in a bottle. But the offense continued to struggle, scoring three runs against Alabama in a loss before being shut out for six innings by Oral Roberts. At that point, UH had scored in just two of its previous 31 innings.
But Cole Bruce stepped up. He singled to drive in the go-ahead run against ORU and set up a re-match with Alabama. Against the Tide, the UH offense exploded.
Cole Bruce doubled, tripled, and hit a home run, driving in four and scoring four times. That night, Bruce became an insta-legend among the Cougar Faithful, who renamed Olsen Field as “Cole Bruce Field.” UH scored 14 runs in four innings in the middle of the game and cruised to a 16-8 win.
On Sunday, the Coogs had to beat the Aggies twice to advance. UH jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but the Aggies chipped away and took the lead. Then, in the 7th, Cho belted a homer for the go-ahead runs, and UH escaped, 7-6. Ryan Wagner recorded his 14th save, while Cole Bruce had three more hits.
Over 20 days, Bruce had played five games in the stadium named in his honor and went 10/19 (.526), walked four times, drove in nine, and scored eight runs.
Now it was do-or-die for both teams.
The championship game began at seven that Sunday night. Besides UH’s two wins, the Aggies had been 13-1 at Cole Bruce Field since March and had not lost back-to-back home games all year. The teams traded runs early before A&M pushed two across in the sixth and another in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, UH scored twice but trailed 6-4.
Justin Vaclavik pitched the ninth and induced a double play and a strikeout. A quick groundout to start the bottom of the frame meant the Coogs were down to their final two outs.
Rayner Noble elected to allow catcher Brett Logan, hitting under .150 for the year, to take his at-bat. Logan promptly then doubled down the leftfield line. Michael Bourn then tripled to center, scoring Logan. Travis Tully hit a sac fly to send Bourn home, and the game was tied.
Play-by-play man Nick Torina and analyst Pat Cauley were going wild in the radio booth. Both former UH players, the duo had lived the up-and-down season with the team.
In the top of the 10th, the Aggies led off with a double. Ryan Wagner replaced and then walked a man on five pitches. First and second, nobody out. The next hitter bunted to Wagner, who threw out the lead runner at 3rd. The next batter struck out on three pitches, the last on a filthy slider. Wagner got out of it two pitches later on a fielder’s choice. He threw 11 pitches, five of them to the first batter.
The bottom of the 10th was an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Greg Buchanan struck out on seven pitches, while Matt Farrington grounded out in a six-pitch AB. Two outs. Brian Martin worked a seven-pitch walk before Sam Mitchell also walked on seven pitches.
With men at first and second, Stuart Musslewhite swung at the first pitch, a slow dribbler to the A&M pitcher, Matt Farnum.
On the air on KAXF 88.3 FM in Houston, Cauley begged Farnum to throw it away.
“Throw it away. Throw it away,” Cauley pled. Farnum then became a Houston Cougar legend.
“HE THREW IT AWAY.” Reminded of the scenario twenty years later, Torina laughed.
“I remember trying to do the play-by-play and Pat just screaming as it happens,” Torina says. Torina’s wife Beth is the head softball coach at LSU, while Cauley’s wife Traci works for UH Baseball.
Farnum, exhausted from the four grueling at-bats in the inning, threw wide of the first baseman. Running on contact, Brian Martin rounded third, saw Farnum’s gaffe and scored before the entire team dogpiled him. The stands were chaos as the Cougars won it, 7-6. It was the second-straight Super Regional appearance and the third in four years.
Twenty years later, many fans still describe it as their favorite UH memory (this writer included). Over 36 hours, the team won four games and the Regional. Unfortunately, with the late finish time (nearly 11 pm), most newspapers did not have the score or details for Monday’s edition.
On Tuesday, many of them ran the photo of the dogpile.