CWS: Bats Alive!

It's not that Texas couldn't hit prior to the NCAA Tournament. This Longhorn team has always been capable of piling up the hits and runs. It's just that the Longhorn bats occasionally, shall we say, went dead. Like in a scoreless doubleheader performance at the Disch vs. North Carolina State, perhaps the low point of what has turned into, at worst, a Final Four season for <B>Augie Garrido's</B> guys.

The back-to-back shutouts off the arms of the Wolfpack came in the middle of a 26-game stretch, starting on April 10 with a 5-2 win over K-State in Manhattan and culminating with an 8-2 elimination loss to Okie State in the Big 12 Tournament, where Texas reached double figures in runs just four times. The Horns have matched that mark in seven NCAA Tournament games. Their lowest output? Seven runs in both wins over Oral Roberts in the Austin Regional. Over that same 26-game stretch, UT racked up double-digit hits nine times. So far in NCAA Tourney play, the Horns have smashed 10-plus hits five times, while collecting nine hits in the other two contests.

(UT wasn't a bad team while the offense struggled; the Horns still won 17 of those 26 games. But before the relative drought, Texas had taken 33 of its first 37 games. And since then, the Horns are 7-0.)

Texas' post-season barrage has raised the team batting average from to .282 to .290. Longhorn hitters have smacked 10 homers (although none yet in Omaha), five triples and 23 doubles among their 87 hits. Even more impressive, though, is the team's efficiency at scoring runs. Texas has plated a whoppin' 71 runs on those 87 hits (to outscore opponents 71-21), due in part to a discipline at the plate that has also resulted in 34 post-season walks.

With just a couple of exceptions, the post-season production has come from up and down the line-up. Seven regulars have bested their regular season average so far in seven Tourney games. None more so, of course, that DH Dooley Prince. Pre-NCAA Tournament, Prince owned a .237 batting average. All he's done in the Tourney is rap 11 hits in 15 at-bats, a .733 mark. In Omaha alone he is six-of-eight, a .750 clip! The junior transfer is one of four Horns with double-digit Tournament RBI (11) and he has not left a single runner on base in his two-out at-bats.

"Dooley has a background of tremendous success his freshman and sophomore years (at McNeese State)," Garrido said. "He started in the lineup (early in '04), but when he came out of the line-up, he really never lost his work ethic and he never lost the competitiveness to work his way back in. When he sat on bench -- and it was for a period of time -- he never gave up on his teammates and he stayed in the game (mentally) at all times and over and over again I've seen over the years people like that find themselves and good things happen to them. It speaks well to his character that he was able to come back to the form that he normally plays at. It's about character, it's about work ethic, it's about never giving up, it's about rooting for the team when you're not in the line-up. There's something magical about what happens to players when they do that and are pretty selfless and hardworking in a difficult environment for themselves. Dooley did all of those things and good things are happening for him."

Curtis Thigpen has also been a man afire at the plate, collecting a team-high 14 NCAA Tourney hits in 31 at-bats (.452 vs. an overall season mark of .379). UT's junior 1B has 10 RBI in those 31 at-bats and has left just three men on base (all of those coming in the first Oral Roberts game). Drew Stubbs leads the team in Tournament RBI with 13 while batting .400 (vs. an overall season mark of .312). The true freshman CF is just behind Prince and Thigpen in clutch hits with only four LOB. Senior RF Ryan Russ is 10-for-21 (.476 vs. an overall season mark of .298), junior 2B Seth Johnston is 12-for-31 (.387 vs. an overall season mark of .299), sophomore C Taylor Teagarden is 10-for-26 (.385 vs. an overall season mark of .279; he also has 10 RBI) and junior 3B David Maroul is 7-for-27 (.259 vs. an overall season mark of .229).

The only guys that have struggled in the Tournament are true freshman LF Carson Kainer, who's 5-for-24 (.208 vs. an overall season mark of .338), and junior SS Michael Hollimon, who's 3-for-16 (.188 vs. an overall season mark of .221).

In Omaha, Stubbs is 3-for-9 (.333) with 2 runs, 3 RBI and 3 LOB, Johnston is 5-for-9 (.556) with 3 runs, 3 RBI and 2 LOB, Thigpen is 6-for-9 (.667) with 5 runs, 2 RBI and 0 LOB, Teagarden is 0-for-6 (.000) with 2 runs, 0 RBI and 2 LOB, Prince is 6-for-8 (.750) with 2 runs, 5 RBI and 0 LOB, Kainer is 0-for-6 (.000) with 2 runs, 2 RBI and 5 LOB, Russ is 2-for-7 (.286) with 2 runs, 3 RBI and 2 LOB, Maroul is 2-for-7 (.286) with 3 runs, 3 RBI and 2 LOB, and Hollimon is 0-for-4 (.000) with 1 run, 0 RBI and 0 LOB.

"We (the pitching staff) have been confident in our offense all year," Sam LeCure said. "We've known we can go out there and put up eight or 10 runs a game. Now, everybody else is getting a little taste of that."

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