Texas to the College World Series

Texas had pushed its lead up to 4-2 and appeared to have the game in hand when I received a text message from a relative and a big Texas fan.

"We're not pretty," the text read. "But we find a way to win. A typical Augie team."

And like most typical Augie Garrido teams, this Texas squad found a way to the College World Series, claiming a 4-2 victory over Arizona State in the third, and deciding, game in the Austin Super Regional, using stellar pitching and just enough run generation to beat one of college baseball's traditional powers.

The winning ugly tag line fit especially well in game three. At times, the Longhorns squandered runners in scoring position. They gained the tying run thanks to a questionable balk call, and avoided a potential Arizona State score via a doubtful interference call at the plate. Texas, which leads the country in sacrifice bunts, often struggled to lay down an effective bunt in a bunting situation. And even after taking a 4-2 lead, Texas allowed the tying run to come to the plate in the ninth after botching a fly ball to right center.

But for all their faults, the Longhorns did enough to win when they had to. All weekend, Texas's pitchers bore down on a tremendously talented Sun Devil offense. Arizona State came into the series averaging nearly 6.5 runs per game. But after facing an avalanche of Longhorn arms, the Sun Devils produced just six runs for the entire series. That helped the Longhorns overcome a less-than-average offensive showing themselves, with Texas putting up just 10 runs over the series.

It's that pitching that makes the Longhorns such a dangerous team heading into the College World Series. When Cole Green pitches the way that he did in Saturday's game, Texas has three pitchers who would be aces on many other staffs. It's telling that the Longhorns have dropped both tournament games that ace Taylor Jungmann has pitched — his only two losses for the season — but are still headed to the College World Series. Thanks to pitchers like Green and Sam Stafford, and relievers like Hoby Milner, Nathan Thornhill and Corey Knebel, the Longhorns went 6-0 in their other games across Regional and Super Regional play. Those relievers have made it almost automatic that a Longhorn lead after the first six innings turns into a Texas win.

Texas also fields a traditionally strong defensive unit, though the Longhorns committed some key errors in the series. Don't expect that trend to continue into the CWS.

But how far the Longhorns go will ultimately come back to their bats. More specifically, Texas will advance by playing typical Garrido small ball. Get on base, advance the runner and count on a timely hit. Those timely hits haven't come in bunches thus far in the playoffs, though it's worth noting that the Longhorns produced a respectable 5-plus runs per game average during the regular season.

With Texas's pitching and defense, anything is possible. But the Longhorns will likely have to generate more offense if they want to bring home another National Championship. If they do win, they'll lose the "typical" Augie team label, and become another "exceptional" Augie team.


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