Baseball Regional: Simmons To Start Friday

Tan, rested and ready. OK, <B>Augie Garrido</B> left out the tan part, but the other two apply to <B>Justin Simmons</B>, according to the Texas head coach, so the senior lefty will be on the hill for first pitch Friday when the No. 1 seed Horns (50-13) take on No. 4 Youngstown State (22-30) at 7 p.m. at the Disch in both teams Regional opener.

"Justin Simmons is going to start," Garrido said Thursday afternoon. "He's the best-rested and he matches up well with this team."

Garrido elaborated on his thinking: "All three of them (Simmons, normal Friday starter J.P. Howell and No. 3 starter Sam LeCure) are going to pitch, so now it's a matter of where do you want to put them and I think the pitching plan that we have by starting Justin allows us to put one of our three starters in the first game and hopefully get us to the second one. The key, of course, is to stay in that winner's bracket. It doesn't always win it for you but it's certainly a lot easier road. But I'm not comfortable dropping below the starting rotation. Some coaches do that, they like to say 'OK, we've got the seed' and I don't feel comfortable with that. I feel comfortable going with the three guys that got us here and making sure they pitch in this tournament and being aggressive right from the get-go by starting one of our best pitchers in the history of the school. That's the aggressive way to do it. I just don't like assumptions that people can't play. It's just not true. You start trying to out-smart the game and you out-smart yourself. We have three starters. One of them is going to have to beat the first guy out of the block. He's the best-rested and we're going with him."

Simmons, who did not pitch in the Big 12 Tournament last week after Garrido suspended him and J. Brent Cox following their early Tuesday morning arrest on public intoxication charges in Arlington, said he's ready to return to the mound, particularly given the importance of the situation.

"This first game of the regional is definitely important to get off to a good start and I love that coach put me in that position and gives me that responsibility," he said Thursday. "I've been working hard all year, and as a team, this is where we hoped to be in the beginning. We're right where we wanted to be and so it all starts here and I'm glad that responsibility is on my shoulders."

Simmons (9-3, 4.24 ERA) said his arm feels good, and that, more importantly, his confidence remains intact despite a tough 10 days.

"As I've had a lot of people tell me, what defines a person is how they deal with adversity," he said. "I'm going to put it behind me and move on."

As expected, Youngstown State will start sophomore left hander Justin Thomas, head coach Mike Florak said Thursday. [Note: For more on the Penguins, see Baseball Regional: Youngstown State Preview.]

[Have you seen the latest football recruiting videos: Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, R.J. Jackson, Keenan Clayton, McKinner Dixon, Malcolm Kelly, Deon Wallace, Jamaal Charles, Marcus Burton, Jermichael Finley and DeMarcus Granger?]

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