Baseball: Halsey to start Horns' regional opener

<B>Augie Garrido</B> announced Thursday that <B>Brad Halsey</B> will start Friday's regional opener vs. Central Connecticut State. The Texas coach emphasized, though, that the decision to pitch Halsey rather than national player of the year candidate <B>Justin Simmons</B> had nothing to do with any perceived weakness in the Blue Devils. It simply came down to "rest." Or lack thereof.

As IT reported from The Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday, in an effort to give the team its best chance of winning the Big 12 Championship game, Simmons (14-1, 2.11) went a little longer than originally intended vs. Nebraska and the coaches decided to give their staff ace an additional day of rest before sending him back to the mound.

"We took Justin 10 to 12 more pitches than we wanted to," the head coach said of Simmons' five-inning, 85-pitch performance in the Horns' 9-6, 10-inning win over the Huskers in the league tourney title game. "(The decision to start Halsey) is what's best from a rest standpoint for our team."

Halsey (6-2, 3.06), who last pitched in Thursday's 8-6 win over OSU in Arlington, said the coaching staff informed him Wednesday that he would get the start against the Blue Devils. "When I found out, I felt like it would be a great opportunity to go out and do something good for the team," the junior lefty said.

"Any pitcher we have out there the team has tremendous confidence in," catcher Ryan Hubele said.

Based on his team's relatively steady performance throughout the regular season regardless of the opponent, Garrido downplayed the notion that his top-seeded, nationally No. 3-ranked bunch would overlook the relatively unknown Blue Devils.

"Our players have done an excellent job accepting their roles and their responsibilities under any conditions, any time," Garrido said. "I'm confident our players will play to the best of their ability no matter who they play."

"We're not going to take Central Connecticut lightly," Halsey added.

Asked if the unknown underdog role worked to his team's advantage against Texas, Central Connecticut coach Charlie Hickey, unable to hold back a smile, said, "I don't know if they're staying awake at night worrying."

" I don't know if it's an advantage to be unknown but we would like to get a little less unknown," the coach continued. "If we knock off The University of Texas, there's going to be a lot of angry people around here."

At least one of the Blue Devil players expressed confidence that the Northeast Conference tourney champs can raise the ire of the Austin crowd by besting the Big 12 champs, as well as No. 2 seed Baylor and No. 3 seed Lamar.

"We've been saying, we're here for a reason," CCSU C/LF Tim D’Aquila said Thursday. "We're here to win. I think we're gonna surprise people coming out the way we play."

Garrido described Central Connecticut's style of play as "physical," particularly at the plate where the Blue Devils sport a .327 team batting average. That sets up a strength-on-strength match-up Friday night at the Disch. The Longhorn pitching staff brings in a nation's best 2.79 ERA, limiting opposing batters to just a .234 batting average.

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