Host Horns Open NCAA Tourney Against Quinnipiac

Host and regional top seed Texas (45-14) opens NCAA Regional Tournament play Friday against Northeast Conference champ and regioanl No. 4 seed Quinnipiac (26-22), it was announced Monday. The Austin Regional site also includes No. 3 seed Miami (Ohio) (44-16) and former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas (37-20), a No. 2 seed.

It marks the 34th time Texas has hosted a NCAA Regional and seventh straight post-season appearance for college baseball's winningest program. Yet, after failing to snag a Top Eight national seed, the Horns will likely hit the road for the NCAA Super Regional if they advance (as expected) beyond the field of 64. If the seeds hold, Texas would then face Mississippi (44-17) in Oxford. The Rebels enter the Tournament as the No. 5 national seed in the Tournament. The only way Texas hosts a Super Regional is if the Rebels stumble in their own ballpark. (The Top Eight are guaranteed the home field all the way to Omaha if they win their Regional this weekend.)

The Horns' chances will be significantly enhanced if C Taylor Teagarden can return from a rib cage injury suffered at Texas A&M on May 20. The Horns need his bat, but more importantly (given the team's performance in Oklahoma City) his leadership and presence behind the plate. Head coach Augie Garrido has tried to piecemeal the position by going with freshman Todd Gilfillan and sophomore Clay Van Hook during the Conference Tourney, but the two subs combined for six passed balls during the event. Teagarden, who is the team's fourth-leading hitter with a .316 average, remains listed as day-to-day but his condition has reportedly improved over the last few days. With 50 starts this season, Teagarden boasts Texas' highest on-base percentage (.447, .001 ahead of the team's leading hitter Seth Johnston).

Texas joins Big 12 Conference members Baylor and Nebraska as Regional hosts. The Cornhuskers are the No. 3 national seed while the Bears are right behind at No. 4. Nebraska edged Baylor, 1-0, in the Big 12 Tournament Final on Sunday. Oklahoma and Missouri also made the field as at-large teams. The Sooners are the third seed in the Oxford Regional (yes, it means we may have to cheer for OU to win this one) while Missouri ended up in the Cal-State Fullerton Regional.

Half of the host sites hail from either the SEC or the ACC, as both leagues feature four host venues respectively. Conference USA champ Tulane (50-9) is the top national seed.

The weekend forecast for Austin is that the Regional comes down to Miami (Ohio) and Texas, with the Horns prevailing. Quinn is happy to be here, Arkansas finished six games below .500 in its league standings (but was granted a pass because it competes in arguably college baseball's toughest conference) while MAC champ Miami (Ohio) has a solid enough pitching staff to rival Texas'. Another forecast: the top seeds most prime for an upset (either in the Regional or Super Regional) are Oregon State and Tulane. The competition in Conference USA and the PAC 10 does not compare with that in the Big 12, SEC or ACC.

Texas spent more than half the season ranked atop at least one of the three national polls. It's pseudo-RPI ranking has been at, or near, the top of the ratings all year (it stands at No. 3 right now). Yet, the Horns have gone 10-8 over the last five weeks dating back to the final game (April 24) in the series at Oklahoma State. Texas fell to Baylor, 9-8, in the Conference Tournament Semifinals on Saturday.

In this double-elimination format, a team can conceivably lose four games the rest of the way and still win the College World Series championship. The eight Super Regional hosts will be announced at 11 a.m., June 7, on ESPN.

TOP EIGHT NATIONAL SEEDS

1. Tulane

2. Georgia Tech

3. Nebraska

4. Baylor

5. Ole Miss

6. Cal-State Fullerton

7. Florida

8. Oregon State


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