Texas trailed Arizona State 2-0 courtesy of a first-inning homerun off the bat of Riccio Torrez. The pressure was on, but of course that was nothing new to this bunch after playing in four elimination games over the previous seven days. It’s inaccurate to say they had ASU right where they wanted them, but it’s true that they stayed loose and remained confident.
In the bottom of the third inning, Jonathon Walsh struck out looking with a runner at third base.
In the bottom of the fourth, Jordan Etier was up with no outs and the bases juiced. K.
Tant Shepherd was up next. He worked up a 2-0 count before striking out.
Mark Payton then grounded out to end the inning and preserve the Sun Devils’ 2-0 lead.
Double expletive, with a side of self-inflicted pain.
It was at that point that I began to have serious doubts about whether this team would advance to Omaha. I ignored all the talent and coaching experience in the name of the 2010 TCU series.
Shame on me. Y’all know how things turned out. Now, instead of watching eight other teams ruin the tradition of Rosenblatt, we get to watch Texas and seven others lay the foundation for a new chapter in college baseball history.
Augie Garrido has never shied away from comments that the Super Regional win over Ole Miss in 2005 galvanized his team and gave them the confidence to go on and win the national championship. Now Garrido is dropping quotes that his team is finally playing to their potential and has the right look in their eye.
If anybody should recognize that look, it’s Garrido – the man has has won a championship in four straight decades. Winning this year would make it five. Augie is 38-18 in Omaha. That’s a .678 winning percentage on the game’s biggest stage against the country’s best teams. Ridiculousity.
I spent the Spring convinced that the Longhorns were one of the top five teams in the country. For me, advancing to Omaha validated that notion. As long as this team doesn’t go 0-2, then I should be satisfied but now that they’re in Omaha all that pussification is out the window.
To prop up my hopes, I compiled a bunch of meaningless statistics in support of my thoughts about what it will take for Texas to win the title. If you don’t like ground-breaking concepts like "score more runs than the other team" then pay $10/month for insight.
Gratuitous coeds strategically placed as a blatant attempt to keep you reading. AKA - The only thing the SEC is good for.
If there’s one single consistency that has Texas fans worried, it is that the bats will go cold. I already referenced TCU Syndrome, so there’s no reason to revisit it. However, there are some finer points that that warrant consideration:
*** There are plenty of adjectives to describe the Texas offense. I use the term "Pressure" to best illustrate how it is most effective.
It isn’t the sexiest brand of baseball - station-to-station, bunts, steals, HBP’s, walks, etc. What the Horns do is put pressure on opposing teams to execute defensive plays properly and perfectly. This ain’t The Show and at the collegiate level it works effectively. It’s even more effective when you play Texas State and Kent State.
When the Longhorns play a team with solid defensive talent (like any team in Omaha), then the pressure reverts back to them. Where Kent State will throw a wild pitch or fail to properly field a bunt, any team in Omaha will make that play the majority of the time. The key to the Pressure Offense at this point in the season is to make the opposition execute every inning.
Where UF might field the first bunt perfectly and gun down the first steal attempt, it’s a matter of making them make those plays repetitively. They can and will do it once. For Texas to have success on offense in Omaha they need to sustain that pressure from inning to inning.
OBP is the name of the game. Besides Texas, UNC is the only other team in the field that has an on-base percentage more than 100 points higher than their team’s batting average.
*** When the Horns are in the field, a lot of fans are talking about how well they’ll handle the difference of the surface at TD Ameritrade versus the comfy confines of The Disch. Rest easy - Texas has a fielding percentage of over .980 in away games.
*** I like it that Texas has hand on their side of the bracket. In 2005, the Horns beat UF in the Championship series. Those are the only two times the schools have ever played.
In 2004, Texas beat Vanderbilt in Super Regional play. If you’re looking for other games between the two schools, you’ll need to look back before dirt was born.
Texas and UNC have never played.
Add all that up and you’ve got the team with the most tradition in Omaha having fairly recent success over most of their bracket. A big piece of winning the title is handling pressure (there’s that word again), and if the Horns get out in front of the bracket, then they add to a perceived mental edge.
*** Speaking of playing with the big stack, staying in the winner’s bracket is significant for Texas' chances. Even though they’ve proven to be very capable from the loser’s bracket over the last two weeks, playing from from a position of advantage only amplifies some of the points above.
The other reason to stay in the winner’s bracket is that Omaha's extended schedule suits Texas’ strength. I’ve said before that this team sets up perfectly to win a weekend series and if they can stay in the winner’s bracket that is the opportunity they’re afforded.
Skip Johnson managed the bullpen into a serious strength against ASU. That same luxury exists if the Horns win early.
*** If you’re looking for a David Maroul-level surprise from the offense, keep Paul Montalbano and Jonnathon Walsh in mind. Both players have quietly batted more than 100 points higher than they managed during early season struggles. Although not quite to the same extent, Mark Payton has also really raised his offensive production.
*** Another boon to the offense that again goes back to putting pressure on the opposition is having your leadoff man reach base in an inning. If you remember, Garrido moved Tant Shepherd to the top of the batting order before Regionals.Over the season, Shepherd reached base more than half the times he led off an inning. Coincidence? Hardly. That level of detail and clairvoyance only exists to a Zen Master.
The other end of the spectrum.
*** Speaking of the Master and his teachings, this year’s postseason outcomes could not have been scripted any more perfectly for his use. Think about it…win the Regional opener, only to drop Game 2.
"I told you the grasshopper jumps further when it’s energies are focused."
Team regroups and wins the Regional from the loser’s bracket, only to lose the opener of the Supers with their best player on the mound.
"Fine. Don’t believe me. Besides, in 15 minutes you guys will all probably be fucking fine with this."
Team wins Supers. Grasshoppers jump Olympic distances.
*** It’s not all good news. It never is. Tomorrow is Saturday and Texas is 10-11 on Saturdays. I can’t explain it but I do know that the team batting average is about 40 points lower and team ERA is over 1.5 runs higher on Saturdays. Fire up the incense, it’s jiao time.
*** Back to applying pressure…it is a large part of the Texas pitching philosophy as well. After the ASU series Garrido said, "What you have to do in the College World Series is take the home run away from them (teams). Good pitching does that. Good pitching doesn't stop them from hitting, they'll hit. But good pitching stops home runs."
Forcing teams to manufacture runs on offense takes most out of their comfort zone. The way that Texas needs to make teams execute perfectly on defense also applies to how they will try to dictate from the mound. If the Horns make teams bunt, steal and string singles together, then that’s a win because it plays to their strengths. It’s no accident that the Texas pitching staff is holding teams to a .201 BA with RISP.
If you’re still with me, I’ll bring this to a merciful close. These kinds of subtleties abound in baseball. It’s trivially boring to most, but if you’re like me, the CWS is one of the best weeks of the year.
I think UVA emerges from Bracket 2. I still don’t know who to pick in Bracket 1. I really believe it’s as balanced as it can be.
That’s why I’m glad Augie is in the Texas dugout. Pushing buttons and having a razor-thin mental edge very well may be the difference between 0-2 and 3-0.
Plus, Bill Little is clearly manipulating Garrido. As proof, here’s a quote from Augie's presser yesterday:
"The other part of that is in 1950, when the first championship was ever held in Rosenblatt. The Longhorns won. It would be nice to do it again, twice in Omaha."
Here's what some Gators think of us.