The NCAA Selection Committee announced Monday that Texas will be the No. 2 seed in the Rice Regional in Houston. The Owls are the Regional's top seed and will take on the No. 4-seeded Sam Houston State Bearkats at 6 p.m. on Friday, while Texas starts with the third seed Red Storm of St. John's. First pitch for Texas' opening match-up is slated for 2 p.m.
St. John's (41-14) enters the Regional coming of its second consecutive Big East regular season title. This is the Red Storm's fourth NCAA appearance in the last five seasons, but this year's team may be one of the best St. John's has fielded, tying school records for wins (41) and Big East wins (20).
Texas (37-20) has faced St. John's only twice before, with the last meeting back in 1966. Both were in the College World Series. The Longhorns first beat the then-Redmen 7-1 in 1949 en route to their first-ever CWS title and St. John's returned the favor with a 2-0 win at the 1966 World Series.
Sam Houston State (37-23), the Regional's No. 4 seed, has been a much more common opponent for the Horns. The Horns and Bearkats have played 88 times, with Texas taking 71 of those games. However, Texas and Sam Houston State have not faced each other on the diamond since 2004.
Texas' most familiar foe in Houston will be the Regional's host. Texas' old SWC opponent, Rice (42-13), has the No. 1 seed in Houston. The Longhorns hold a sizable 216-49-2 advantage over Rice, but in the three times the teams have played this season, the Owls won two.
Texas' three games against Rice this season were spread throughout the schedule. The two teams first met in the seventh game of the season at the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park. Rice shelled Texas 10-4 in a tough loss for Longhorn starter Kenn Kasparek, which was a part of a rough start to the season for the 6-foot-10 right-hander. Texas and Rice faced off again on March 11th and the result was quite different. This time the Texas bats were alive as the Horns beat the Owls in Houston, 9-1. About a month later, the teams had one more regular season match-up, this one in Austin. The Owls were victorious, 7-3, as Texas played one of its ugliest games of the season, defensively, committing five errors.
But the Longhorn have become a very different team since then and have now won nine of their last ten games heading into the NCAAs, including a win in the Big 12 Tournament Championship on Sunday.
The winner of the Rice Regional will square off in the Super Regional round vs. the winner of the Texas A&M Regional, which includes the No. 1 seed Aggies, No. 2 seed Dallas Baptist, No. 3 seed Houston and No. 4 seed Illinois-Chicago.
This is Texas' 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championships and the 52nd overall, but it will be the first time in seven years that the Horns have not hosted an NCAA Regional.