Baseball Regional: UT's Title Try Begins vs. YSU

Unlike in its two previous NCAA Tourney appearances, Texas doesn't exactly come into Regional play on a hot streak. The '02 and '03 Longhorn clubs, both of which advanced to Omaha, opened their Disch-Falk regionals coming off a Big 12 Tournament championship. This year, UT bowed out three wins short of the title. <B>Augie Garrido</B>, though, doesn't buy the theory that a team must be racking up end-of-the-season wins to own a bit of mighty mo.

"Yeah, I believe in momentum," the Texas head coach said Thursday, "but I believe it can come from positive experiences as well as negative experiences. I think you can become complacent after winning... so all your answers really aren't always in winning. I think how you respond to adversity, which this game is all about, can give you momentum and more momentum and more determination."

But, he added, we'll only know "in hindsight" whether the team picked up post-season momentum over the final weeks of the season or simply played its best ball in March and April before a series loss to Missouri, a two-game sweep by North Carolina State and a .2-2 mark in Arlington, all part of a 9-win, 8-loss closing stretch.

Despite its recent struggles, No. 1 seed Texas (50-13) is certainly the favorite over No. 4 seed Youngstown State (22-30) in round one. But Garrido's momentum theory will be put to an immediate test. The Penguins come in on a bit of a roll, winners of eight of 11 and four straight in the Horizon League tourney to earn an automatic bid into the field of 64.

The game will be won or lost by what happens between the lines for nine innings tonight, not by current win streak, seed, record or program history, team-leading hitter Curtis Thigpen said Thursday.

"I don't think the programs have anything to do with winning or losing," the junior slugger said. "Or the name on our jerseys or the names of the players. It all comes down to one game, one inning, one pitch, and whoever plays the best baseball that game is going to win so we've got to focus on coming out and playing our baseball and everybody fulfilling their role..."

Scheduled starting pitcher Justin Simmons added: "Like Curtis pointed out, it's not really about what the name is on the jersey, when you play this game long enough... any team can come out and beat you on any given day. That's the beauty of baseball and we have to come ready to play no matter who the opponent is. We've just got to stick to the fundamentals of the game and just have fun."

Youngstown State head coach Mike Florak and his players echoed Simmons' "fundamentals" and "fun" comments.

"We know we're up against a big challenge," Florak said. "It's kind of like trying to eat an elephant. You eat an elephant one bite and a time and we're going to try to take this one pitch at a time and take care of our responsibilities one pitch at a time."

"We have a lot of respect for a team like this," YSU batting leader CF Kendall Schlabach said. "Every year we usually end up watching these guys on TV at the College World Series. That's what we dream of playing for and now we're getting a little piece of what they play in every year."

While a Regional appearance alone may be a dream for the Penguin players, Garrido and team's expectations are set substantially higher.

"We have been aware since September of what the objectives are for this team," he said. "Two hundred seventy eight (teams) start (the season), and we're expected to finish No. 1. Anything less than that is debatable as to whether it is acceptable or not."


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