Baseball: Clark, Guthrie to start

The last time <B>Ray Clark</B> took the hill in the post-season vs. Stanford, the Texas rightie pitched the Horns to the brink of a regional championship-clinching victory. That was in 2001 in Palo Alto. And Clark and his UT teammates couldn't hold on to a late 3-1 win lead and suffered a season-ending 4-3 loss to the Cardinal.

Now, it's 2002 in Omaha. And Clark and his UT teammates, many who made the long, depressing flight back to Austin last June following that regional title game loss, hope to return the favor by giving Stanford its '02 season-ending loss and one way ticket back to the Bay Area.

Based on this year's post-season performances, Clark may just be the Longhorn pitcher capable of sendin' Stanford packin'. In four appearances (two in the Big 12 Tournament and one each in the Regional and Super Regional), the hard-throwing junior is 3-0 with an outstanding 0.95 ERA.

Clark didn't fare so well in his regular season appearance vs. the Cardinal, allowing six hits and five earned runs in just four innings of work. The 7-2 rubber game loss not only sent the Horns home with two losses in that three game series in March, it sent Clark to the bench after a stint as the team's No. 3 starter.

He's returned to that spot with a vengeance, although he never seemed vengeful of the coaches' decision to yank him from the line-up. "The layoff was disappointing," Clark told Brian Davis of the Dallas Morning News. "Other guys were going out there and competing, and I really don't have an explanation why I wasn't. But when I got my chance, I had to go out there and show them what I can do."

Projected Stanford starter Jeremy Guthrie showed what he can do in the Cardinal's CWS opener vs. Notre Dame with a complete game, 4-3 win over the Irish. Guthrie gave up 10 hits but just one walk, allowing all of Notre Dame's runs in the seventh before settling down and closing out the Golden Domers over the final two innings.

Texas, though, roughed up Guthrie earlier this season, tagging the Stanford rightie for six runs (three earned) on seven hits in 7-1/3 innings of the series opener between the two teams back in late March. The Horns held a 6-1 advantage when Guthrie hit the showers, but UT's pitching crumbled in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Cardinal to completely erase that five run advantage. Stanford won it in the 10th. Since that time, Huston Street, who did not appear in the March series in Palo Alto, has emerged as the Horns' shutdown closer, a role he filled Monday night in Texas' 8-7 win over the Cardinal

On paper, Friday's Clark-Guthrie match-up seems to favor Stanford. Clark, down the list in the typical Longhorn pitching rotation, is 6-4 with a 3.16 ERA for the season while Guthrie, the Cardinal's undisputed ace, is 13-1 with a 2.38 ERA for the season. Stanford has also won six of 10 meetings between the two clubs over the last two seasons. Texas, though, beat the Cardinal three days ago and is in position, with just one win over the next two days, to advance to Saturday's national title game.

In baseball, a game of statistics and probabilities, you have to like the Longhorns' odds.

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