Baseball: Horns on the rise in the rankings

Texas earned its highest national ranking since April of '00 Monday when <I>Collegiate Baseball</I> tabbed the Horns the No. 5 college team in the country. UT also snagged a No. 7 ranking Monday in both<I> Baseball America</I> and<I> USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN</I> polls. The rise in the ranking followed by a day UT's sweep-clinching 7-4 win over then-No. 16 Oklahoma State at the Disch.

The three wins over the Cowboys boosted the Horns' Big 12 Championship hopes heading into their final two league series. Texas, 15-6 in conference and 37-11 overall, has three-game sets remaining with second-place Nebraska (14-10 in the Big 12) this weekend in Austin and fifth-place A&M (11-10) May 17-19 (Friday at the Disch and Saturday and Sunday at Olsen Field).

The Huskers wrap up their league schedule with this weekend's games vs. the Horns, so even an NU sweep of Texas would not shut the door on a UT league title. Barring an undefeated nine-game closing stretch by OSU, OU or K-State, the Horns simply need to win three of their final six (if all of the losses come to the Cornhuskers) or two of their final six (with one win over Nebraska and one over A&M) to grab the regular season championship outright. UT's highest league finish under Augie Garrido came last fall when the Horns wound up third in the Big 12 with a 19-11 conference mark after a disappointing late-season slide.

In early March of this year, Texas lost two of three to Baylor and Tech on consecutive weekends (and then to Stanford in a non-conference series later that month), but UT has not suffered a series sweep since the final weekend of the '99 season (to Okie State).

The Horns surrendered just seven runs to the Cowboys in the most recent meeting of the two programs (at the Disch this past weekend), winning 3-2 and 2-1 pitching duels on Friday and Saturday, respectively, before Sunday's 7-4 series finale. The weekend results lowered the team's staff ERA to a still-best-in-nation 2.42.

Since dropping three out of five during a late March-early April stretch, Texas has won 11 of 13 heading into tonight's non-conference tilt at Dell Diamond vs. TCU. The Horned Frogs spanked the Horns 8-1 at Enron Field in the third game of the season but Texas evened the season series at one game apiece with a 5-1 win at Dell Diamond on March 12.

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