Toughest Test: Top-Ranked Tulane On Tap

Texas held on to the top spot in the national rankings for much of the first half of the '05 season. But when the Horns slipped some in April and May, a talented Tulane squad took over No. 1 and the Green Wave enter Monday's College World Series winner's bracket contest with Texas still as the team to beat for the national title.

But they'll have to get by a scrappy Longhorn squad that, despite its late season struggles, is on equal footing with favored Tulane (56-10) heading into each team's second game in Omaha.

For the Horns (52-16) to advance to the bracket championship, though, they'll have to beat Houston Astros first-round Draft pick Brian Bogusevic, a 6-3, 211-pound lefty who owns the fourth-highest victory total in D-I baseball. In 18 starts on the season, Bogusevic, who has a fastball, curveball and change-up in his repertoire, is 13-2 with two complete games and a 3.14 ERA (although he has struggled with a 9.00 ERA in his last two starts). He struck out 123 and walked 41 in 123-1/3 innings, limiting opponents to a .254 average. (When not on the mound, Bogusevic plays right field, batting .323 on the season.) If the Horns manage to get into the Green Wave bullpen, things won't get any easier. Tulane's top three relievers, all righties, have combined for a 12-1 mark and a 2.94 ERA. Sophomore Daniel Latham's 13 saves leads the team.

The Texas pitching staff, led by starter Kyle McCulloch (10-4, 3.10 ERA), must silence, or at least quiet, a Green Wave line-up that own a .321 average at the plate heading into Monday night's contest. Four Tulane regulars own .350-plus batting averages, paced by standout first baseman Micah Owings' .359 mark. (Owings, like Bogusevic, is dual-threat player, picking up the 'W' in the Green Wave's 3-1 CWS opening-game triumph over Oregon State.) DH Scott Madden isn't far behind at .356, followed by CF Nathan Southard at .353 and SS Tommy Manzella at .351. And Tulane, with 83 homers on the season, has power from one through nine in the line-up. Leadoff man Southard owns 12 dingers while Owings has a team-high 18 roundtrippers. Third baseman Brad Emaus and LF Mark Hamilton also hit 10-plus long balls. Southard, Manzella and RF Matt Barket are serious base-stealing threats with double-digit steals on the year.

Texas will counter offensively with its .304 team average on the season, paced by All-American SS Seth Johnston's .387. The Horns have 33 fewer homers on the season than do the Green Wave, but seven of UT's starting nine have the pop to get it out of the park (eight if you count RF Nick Peoples, whose only home run of his collegiate career came just over a week ago in the first elimination game of the Ole Miss Super Regional). All but 2B Robby Hudson and David Maroul are hitting above .300.

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