Not only does the Super Regional represent a battle between two traditional college baseball powers, but it also somewhat represents the age-old conflict between hot pitching and great hitting.
Arizona State brings the latter. The Sun Devils hit .305 as a team, and represent one of the top offensive teams that the Longhorns have faced. They've also done pretty well at knocking the ball out, as evidenced by their 36 home runs, 20 more than Texas has. But that disparity can also be somewhat chalked up to the difference in both teams' ballparks.
The Sun Devils put up 13 runs their last time out, a big win over Arkansas to win their regional.
"It's definitely going to be more difficult for them because of this ballpark, because it's bigger and the ball doesn't carry as much here," said Texas junior shortstop Brandon Loy.
For their part, the Longhorns have one of baseball's top pitching staffs, and with a pair of top-two-round pitchers in Taylor Jungmann and Sam Stafford, making Texas a tough matchup in a best-of-three series. The duo has combined to go 19-3, and neither has an ERA over 1.57. The Texas staff is also pretty deep, boasting four players who have started at least nine games, all of whom have at least six wins. Texas also holds the edge with Corey Knebel as the team's closer. Knebel has 57 strikeouts in just 51 innings, and allows about one hit every two innings. He has 17 saves.
"We know they have a good pitching staff, but we also faced all of the really tough Pac-10 pitchers," said Arizona State third-baseman Riccio Torrez. "We have been tested before, and we have seen the best of the best, so you can't get much better than what we already faced."
Jungmann looks to rebound
Jungmann has been lights out this season, going 13-1 with a 1.39 ERA, striking out 120 batters while walking just 29 in 129 .1 innings pitched. Opponents have hit just .167 against him.
But he enters Friday's game with a bit of a question mark because his last start was his only poor start. He was drilled for seven hits and seven earned runs, while striking out three and walking two. Not surprisingly, that led to Jungmann's only loss of the season, a 7-5 defeat to Kent State.
But Jungmann didn't seem worried about it on Thursday, saying that it was just one bad start, and that he didn't feel the need to go to film to fix anything.
"I mean, you take what you can from it," Jungmann said. "That's about all you can do. You move on, and learn from it, and think about what you did wrong and what you can do to fix it. That's what I did in the bullpen yesterday.
"I don't look at film unless something is really wrong," Jungmann said. "Everybody has bad start and that was one of them. But like I said, I don't look too much into it."
Pop at the bottom
The Longhorns struggled to hit at times in regional play, and at one time were just 10-for-61 from the plate. But Loy said he was encouraged by the hitting prowess displayed at the bottom of the order by players like catcher Jacob Felts and designated hitter Kevin Lusson.
"Felts has really struggled all year, but to see him come out and play the game and have success has been exciting," Loy said. "He has really been carrying the bottom of the order (then you had) Lusson stepping up and hitting those two home runs, and the walk-off hit. I am very excited about what they are doing, and I hope they can carry it into this weekend."
DeMichele hot at the plate
Just a sophomore, Joey DeMichele made the most of his opportunities in regional play. First, he hit a walk-off three-run homer in the regional opener to beat New Mexico 4-2. Then he drove in the Sun Devils' first run in a second-game win over Charlotte. And finally, he hit a two-run first-inning homer in the regional title game against Arkansas. In all, he drove in nine runs in three regional games. That was enough to earn him the regional's Most Outstanding Player. DeMichele leads the Sun Devils in batting average (.368), home runs (9) and triples (6), while he's second in hits (67), RBI (48) and doubles (15).
Past not an issue
Texas coach Augie Garrido joked around that recent experience against Arizona State wouldn't come into play in the regional. He quipped that he was more scared by a 1984 College World Series game where Arizona State bested a strong Oklahoma State squad 23-12.
Of course, he said, the bats had more pop then.
"They were wood," Garrido joked.