CWS: Texas Closes In On Bracket Win

In the College World Series, every game is critical. But the path of least resistance comes with a win in the game two match-up between unbeatens. In their national title run in 2002, the Horns beat Stanford in a winner's bracket contest, setting up an unbeaten run that lit the Tower. But in its quest for back-to-back championships, Texas stumbled in game two vs. eventual champion Rice in 2003 and couldn't recover. This Longhorn team showed early that its aiming to emulate '02, not '03.

Texas (57-13) scored five runs in the top half of the first inning and cruised to a 9-3 win over Georgia (44-22). With the win, the Horns earn a couple of days of rest before playing in a bracket championship game on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Georgia will face Arizona (which eliminated Arkansas Sunday) on Tuesday afternoon in an elimination game, with the winner of that contest forced to take two straight from a rested Texas team for a berth in the CWS final series. The Horns, on the other hand, must simply win one game (of two, if necessary) to play for a second title in three seasons.

"The importance of every game continues to multiply, but if you lose game one or game two, it has the same effect on the road to a championship," Augie Garrido said post-game. "So now that we have game one and two behind us, we have a different road and that's based on total number of innings that have to be pitched. To move forward, we've eliminated at least one game tonight and hopefully we'll win on Wednesday and eliminate another game to go into the two out of three series. That's the advantage you get from winning game one and game two with the tourney structured the way it is."

The Horns earned their advantage through a formula quite similar to what we've seen for the last four post-season games. The previously maligned Texas offense not only hit the ball all over the park but took advantage of walks, balks and errors to plate a lot of runs on a previously stingy pitching staff while the UT arms held in check a dangerous swinging SEC team.

Texas hitters collected 13 hits (six doubles) off of Georgia pitching, including four safeties in the top of the first off of ace UGA starter Sean Ruthven as the Horns jumped out to another early lead and another four in the top of the sixth as Texas responded after the Bulldogs cut the Longhorn lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the fifth.

"They had an answer for everything we did all night," Georgia head coach David Perno said. "There are many reasons why they're No. 1. That's one of them."

Eight of UT's 13 hits came from two spots in the line-up. Both 2B Seth Johnston and DH Dooley Prince turned in four-of-five plate performances, with Johnston driving in two and Prince one. David Maroul and 1B Curtis Thigpen each stroked two base hits. Maroul's two-out, full count, bases loaded triple in the first staked the Horns to their early five-run lead. In the at-bat, the junior third baseman worked the count from 0-2 to full and fouled off five balls before smashing a shot just inside the left field line to clear the bases. Maroul added another double and scored in the sixth. Thigpen and CF Drew Stubbs each had an RBI double on the evening.

After sitting in the dugout for 30-plus minutes as the Horns rocked the 'Dogs in the first, UT starter Sam LeCure did not have his best stuff when he finally ventured to the mound in the bottom of the frame. A one-out single followed by a walk and a wild pitch set up Georgia clean-up hitter Josh Morris for a sac fly to cut slightly into the Longhorn lead. LeCure faced just one over the minimum in the second and the third but had to work out of a jam in the fourth, stranding two Bulldog base runners with two groundouts to end the inning. J. Brent Cox took over to start the fifth and, like LeCure in the first, struggled, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk. Georgia had clawed its way back into the game at 6-3.

After Garrido gathered the guys for a talk between innings, doubles from Maroul, Stubbs and Johnston pushed the Texas cushion back to five at 8-3.

Cox allowed a two-out baserunner in the sixth and two more in the seventh but kept the Georgia batters from coming through with the clutch hit.

After Texas plated another run, this one on a Prince single in the top of the eighth, Huston Street made his first '04 College World Series appearance, sandwiching strikeouts around a Bobby Felmy double before forcing an inning-ending groundout. Street closed it out with a three-up three-down ninth.

Cox (6-1), who went three full and gave up two runs, earned the win while Ruthven (7-2), who gave up six runs on seven hits in four innings, took the loss.

"We're playing with confidence in every aspect of the game, defensively, we're pitching well, as hitters we're all taking good approaches, we're not chasing balls out of the strike zone," Prince said. "I think that's the main (reason) we're on every pitcher because we're hitting strikes, not chasing stuff outside of zone."

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