Rayner Noble said Thursday. "I guess you could say that it's a pretty even match-up.""> Rayner Noble said Thursday. "I guess you could say that it's a pretty even match-up."">

Baseball: 'Even match-up' in Super Regional

"From a pitching standpoint the teams are very close, from a defensive standpoint the teams are very close and offensively, they're similar as well," Houston coach <B>Rayner Noble</B> said Thursday. "I guess you could say that it's a pretty even match-up."

One could also say that the match-up between Texas and Houston at the Disch this weekend is, on paper at least, the best of the eight Super Regionals around the country. The 51-14, third-ranked Horns come in on an eight-game win streak and have won 12 of their last 13. The 47-15, sixth-ranked Cougars come in off a three-game, regional sweep in Arizona and have won 14 of their last 15.

UT leads the nation in team ERA at 2.78. UH isn't far behind in the rankings with a staff mark of 3.02. Both teams will toss at least one all-America-caliber, dominating starting pitcher -- the Horns with Justin Simmons (14-1, 2.42 ERA) and the Cougs with Brad Sullivan (12-1, 1.93 ERA) -- and will count on a shutdown closer -- Texas with Huston Street (4-1, 10 saves, 0.92 ERA) and Houston with Jesse Crain (4-0, nine saves, 0.00 ERA) -- over the course of the weekend.

As a team, the Horns hit at a .304 clip. The Cougars bat .313. Texas has speed at the top of its order in 2B Tim Moss (39 SBs in 48 attempts). Houston leadoff man and CF Michael Bourn can scoot around the bases as well (32 steals in 43 attempts). Both UT and UH have power through the middle of the order -- Texas with OF Dustin Majewski (nine HRs), 1B Jeff Ontiveros (16) and DH J.D. Reininger (12) and Houston with C Chris Snyder (15), 1B Brett Cooley (18) and SS Crain (11).

Defensively, the Horns own a .974 fielding percentage (67 errors on the season), slightly better than the Cougars .962 (90 errors).

"It's a situation with two teams that I really believe are worthy of playing in the College World Series," Noble said. "It's a shame only one of us will be able to advance."

The winner of Friday night's 7:00 p.m. contest will definitely have the inside track to earning the right to advance to Omaha. The Cougars will pitch ace Sullivan, while the Horns are expected to counter with Brad Halsey (7-2, 2.79 ERA). Simmons is expected to take the hill Saturday night at 7:00 in game two of the Super Regional. Junior lefty Halsey opened UT's NCAA tourney run last Friday with an 8-1/3 inning, three-hit, no-earned-run performance.

Despite the tough Super Regional draw, Augie Garrido said his team welcomes the challenge.

"To win the national championship, you have to go against the best in the country and if we're doing it here at Disch-Falk, which we are, that's part of the challenge," the Texas head coach said. "The players are excited about that and that's part of baseball."

UT senior Kalani Napoleon added his thoughts on the team's mindset heading into the series.

"Throughout the year we wanted to go one game at a time, to take that approach," the centerfielder said. "Last weekend is in the past. This weekend is in the future but we look forward to Friday night."

Where a win will move this Texas team closer to a future than includes a trip to Rosenblat Stadium.


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