Six And Counting! Texas World Series Champs

OMAHA, Neb. -- One month ago, Texas was a championship-caliber team without a championship, according to coach Augie Garrido. Now, these never-say-die Longhorns have the one that matters most. The 2005 Texas Longhorns are college baseball's national champion following their convincing 6-2 win Sunday over Florida at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Not bad for a team that finished third in the Big 12 regular season. But this was a fundamentally sound Longhorn team that would not be denied in the postseason. The 56-16 club fought its way out of the loser's bracket at both the Austin Regional and Super Regional in Oxford. Once it got to Omaha, Texas shut out top-seeded Tulane, won contests against co-Big 12 champs Baylor and put the finishing touches against SEC West champ Florida in back-to-back wins. Texas never trailed in a single outing at Rosenblatt, its home-away-from-home in what was its NCAA-record CWS appearance.

"I thought throughout the season that we were a national championship-type team," Garrido said. "It does take the right things to happen at the right time. If you are a national championship-type team, the injuries and the hard times and the struggles that you go through during the regular season actually help you develop a mental toughness that allows you to sit in this seat. And that's what the players did."

It was the program's second national title in four seasons and sixth overall. The Horns now own a NCAA record 78 College World Series wins in completing the two-game sweep of the Gators. Their half-dozen CWS titles trail only USC (12) and represent Garrido's fifth national title, including three during his previous stint at Cal-State Fullerton.

"I know that you can't be the national champion without the right things happening," Garrido said, "and that's the spirituality of it all. You have to trust that it's going to happen. It did, in this case."

Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a celebratory dogpile from the Longhorns. It began when All-American closer J. Brent Cox fell to his knees on the pitchers mound after he fanned DH Stephon Barton on a 2-2 pitch to record the final out. RHP Kyle McCulloch (2.93 ERA) may have saved his best for last, posting a career-high eight strikeouts and finishing the national championship year with a team-best 12 wins against four losses. The ace, who joined Cox on the All-Tournament team, said it was actually easier to play in Omaha than in the hostile environment at the Oxford Regional two weekends ago.

"At a more neutral site like this, a lot more people were relaxed coming in here and pitching their own game," he said. "We all did that this week and it worked out well."

A team renowned for its small-ball smacked seven home runs during its five-game stint in Omaha. The Horns continued to get unexpected firepower from a patched-up 1B Chance Wheeless (dislocated shoulder) and from CWS 'Most Outstanding Player' David Maroul. The third baseman, with a vacuum for a glove, went 8-for-16 in Omaha and a sizzling 6-for-8 in the two-game Championship Series. His three-run homer in the sixth put this one out of reach while his two-run round-tripper Saturday was the difference in Texas' 4-2 win.

"I had those big hits and I guess it played a pretty big role," said the unassuming Maroul, who is much more comfortable facing a 95-MPH fastball than a reporter with a microphone. "It helped with run support and it helped to get a lead in some games and win games."

McCulloch opened the first with two strikeouts in a scoreless Gator top of the first. Florida RHP Bryan Ball (3.36 ERA) took the loss for the Gators and struggled from the start. Leadoff batter RF Nick Peoples singled to left and moved to second on CF Drew Stubbs' sacrifice bunt. SS Seth Johnston's line drive into left put runners on the corners and brought DH Will Crouch, also named to the CWS All-Tournament team, at the plate. But the senior hit into a double play on an 0-1 pitch to end the Longhorn threat.

McCulloch fanned two more in the top of the second. Wheeless slapped one through the gap into left to open the Horn half of the frame. That meant it was LF Carson Kainer's turn to bunt as he sacrificed Wheeless over to second. Maroul put Texas on the scoreboard first with his RBI single into left. The Horns led, 1-0, at the end of two.

NCAA home run-leader (26) Matt LaPorta became McCulloch's sixth strikeout victim in the top of the fourth before C Brian Jeroloman flew out to left to end the inning. C Taylor Teagarden slapped a one-out single up the middle. Maroul's shot into left field had all the makings of Texas' final out but LF Gavin Dickey was guilty of his third CWS error when the ball skipped off the top of his glove as Teagarden headed for home. Texas now led, 2-0.

3B Brandon McArthur's deep infield grounder to shortstop in the top of the fifth was Florida's first base hit of the ballgame. But McCulloch, in full command, forced two pop-ups before fanning SS Justin Tordi.

DH Stephon Barton lined into center field for a leadoff single to open the Gator sixth. Wheeless' diving grab of CF Jeff Corsaletti's sharply hit grounder and toss to first kept runners off the corners as Barton moved to second. 2B Adam Davis flew to deep right-center field, resulting in a near-collision between Stubbs and Peoples. Stubbs recorded the out as Barton tagged up. With a Gator on third, the All-American LaPorta represented the trying run. The sophomore launched a deep, deep shot to left field but Kainer made the grab on the warning track as (again) the Gators came away empty.

"I was just trying to get ahead of hitters," McCulloch said, "and once I got ahead -- and especially when we put a lead up on the board early, their hitters started trying to press and make things happen. So, once we got ahead, I tried to extend the strike zone and make them be overly aggressive. It kind of worked out."

Here, you'd like nothing more than seeing McCulloch get an insurance run, or two. (Make it four.)

Wheeless' solo shot, his second in the past three games, ignited a good omen of a sixth inning in which Texas amassed a six-run lead on the way to that sixth national title. Texas led 3-0 and, at this point, Florida coach Pat MacMahon called for relief from his bullpen. Sidearm RHP Connor Falkenbach, who held Texas in check Saturday, came on the bottom of the sixth and got shelled. Teagarden crushed the first pitch he saw, sending it 400-feet to center field and just out of the firm grasp of Corsaletti's glove as the junior reached second on a standup double. Kainer worked the count and was issued a base on balls, bringing hitting-machine Maroul to the plate. The result was Maroul's second homer in as many outings, good for a base clearing three RBIs. Falkenbach was done after facing four batters and retiring none. RHP Darren O'Day, who retired the Longhorn side in the top of the ninth Saturday, took the hill and finally ended the decisive frame for the Horns.

McArthur tried to get something going with a one-out infield single to open the Gator seventh. RF Brian Leclerc followed by sending a 1-0 fastball over left field wall. Dickey became McCulloch's eighth strikeout victim but the Gators weren't dead yet. Tordi sent one up the middle on McCulloch's 110th, and final, pitch. RHP Randy Boone (remember him?) made his 2005 CWS debut with two down. DH Stephon Barton drew a walk but the Gators stranded two with Corsaletti's infield popup to Wheeless.

LaPorta was issued a one-out walk in the top of the eighth while Jeroloman's single to left put runners on the corners. That's when Cox came on for his fifth CWS appearance in as many games. PH Bryson Barber went down on three pitches while Leclerc grounded-out to Johnston. The Horns were three outs away from Title Town.

The bottom of the order represented Florida's last hope. PH Andy Davis (a .154 hitter) walked on four straight balls. But a Longhorn defense that rewrote the school record for double plays this seasoned turned in a beauty of a 5-4-3 twin kill. When Barton went down swinging, the Horns went down in the record book as the 2005 national champions of college baseball.

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