Going back and re-reading our coverage of the 2005 regional, super regional and College World Series, the names of '07 Horns Chance Wheeless, Adrian Alaniz, Nick Peoples and Randy Boone were prominent.
One of my all-time favorite Texas baseball moments, and perhaps one of the most improbable, came courtesy of Wheeless in Omaha, when the then-sophomore first baseman, playing with a dislocated shoulder popping out of socket almost literally with every swing of the bat, stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth vs. Baylor and, after an ugly (and painful) swing and a miss on the first pitch, launched the game-winning, walk-off homer that sent the Horns to the CWS finals. Wheeless also went yard in the title-clinching game vs. Florida.
Then-freshman Alaniz opened in Omaha with a win over Baylor and then got the call for the title series opener with Florida, another 'W', but he and the Horns may not have made it to Rosenblatt without his clutch performances in elimination games vs. Arkansas in Austin and Mississippi in Oxford.
Then-sophomore Peoples turned in an all-time highlight reel snag vs. Tulane in Omaha with a dead sprint to the right center field gap followed by a leaping grab at the top of the wall, robbing the Green Wave of a sure extra base hit and the beginnings of a possible late inning comeback. And, as with Alaniz, Texas may not have made it out of the loser's bracket in Austin if not for another outstanding defensive effort from Peoples, a diving catch in the regional-clinching game vs. Arkansas that Taylor Teagarden described as "the turning point in the game."
Then-sophomore Boone picked up a win, and as importantly, ate 6-1/3 innings in the first elimination game win over Arkansas for the Horns, setting up the staff for the regional-clincher the next day. Boone made a scoreless relief appearance in the CWS final game vs. Florida.
Each of these guys (all seniors but Alaniz) had their struggles in Round Rock, but they were instrumental in bringing a sixth national title to Texas just two years ago. And I'm thankful for those great memories.
One other note: I was struck by how big a role Kenn Kasparek played in the Horns' '05 title run. Texas came out of the loser's bracket in Austin, beating Miami (Ohio) and Arkansas twice after losing to the Hogs in the second game of the regional, with Kasparek starting the clinching game and giving up just one earned run. He also pitched in relief in the clinching game in Oxford, and started and put the Horns in position for the win over Baylor on Wheeless's heroics with 6-1/3 strong innings. In other words, his presence was certainly missed in 2007, and he should be a key component of the '08 staff's success.