Pitching Decisions Benefiting Longhorns

OMAHA, Neb. - Texas coaches Augie Garrido and Skip Johnson opted for Cole Green against Southern Miss in game one, and the Longhorns came out with a victory. Now, right-hander Chance Ruffin will go against ASU ace Mike Leake on Tuesday. Jason Cole takes a look at why the Texas coaching staff wasn't taking much of a gamble last Sunday.

Leading up to the College World Series' four first-round games, the talk was all about the three teams that were ‘saving' their ace pitchers for the second-round game.

Cal State Fullerton went with freshman Noe Ramirez in place of sophomore Daniel Renken. Arizona State threw left-hander Josh Spence instead of Mike Leake. And Augie Garrido's Texas Longhorns used Cole Green over Chance Ruffin.

Talk to any baseball fan around Omaha, and the general consensus was, "Those teams better hope they win if they're going to gamble like that."

But was it really a gamble?

Ramirez, Spence, and Green may not have been the best pitchers on their staff. They are, however, three of the best starting pitchers in the nation.

Even after his dreadful start against Arkansas, Noe Ramirez finished the season with a 9-2 record and a 3.33 earned-run average. The Titans have gone two-and-que in Omaha, and Renken didn't pitch much better than Ramirez.

Not to mention that none of Fullerton's starting pitchers had any prior College World Series experience.

The other two teams—Arizona State and Texas—won their first-round matchups.

ASU coach Pat Murphy liked the left-hander Spence against the left-handed heavy UNC lineup. Spence delivered by allowing one run over seven innings, striking out eight.

Murphy and Fullerton coach Dave Serrano are not only two of the best coaches in college baseball, but they have also had recent success at the CWS.

This isn't Augie Garrido's first rodeo either. The Longhorns' legendary coach has led Division I baseball teams since 1969. He has won national championships in four different decades, including two in the 2000‘s at the University of Texas.

In Omaha, Garrido has earned the right to be trusted, no matter how curious his decisions appear.

Not that the decision to use Green over Ruffin was all that curious. Ever since Green threw a complete-game at Nebraska in April, his starts have produced 2.82 earned-run average in 51 innings. Ruffin has also been outstanding since that series, but his ERA is 3.57 in his last nine starts.

Like he's done all postseason, Green went out and gave the ‘Horns seven-plus innings against Southern Miss. The sophomore allowed three runs while walking one and striking out eight. He did exactly what the Longhorns wanted him to do, pushing UT into a second-round battle against a big-time program and a big-time pitcher.

And that leads to Tuesday's matchup against Arizona State.

The first winner's bracket game in Omaha is huge. A game-two victory puts a team just one win away from the national championship series.

Tuesday's winner will be off until Friday evening. That team could use their third starter on Friday—or they could come back with their game-one starting pitcher.

To make a long story short, the winner of Tuesday's contest between Texas and Arizona State is very likely to advance to the championship series, especially given the talent level of both pitching staffs.

That's exactly why the Longhorns want Chance Ruffin on the mound.

When Ruffin leaves college, he probably isn't going to be a first-round pick like ASU starting pitcher Mike Leake.

However, Ruffin can be just as good as any pitcher in college baseball, and it's because of his mindset.

All of the old cliches apply to Ruffin. He's tough as nails. He's a bulldog on the mound. They're all true.

In the bright lights, going up against a pitcher with a 16-1 record and a 1.36 ERA, Ruffin thrives on the pressure of matching an elite hurler pitch-for-pitch.

The Texas offense doesn't have an easy task in going against Leake, who was the eighth overall pick in last week's MLB Draft. But the Sun Devils aren't likely to have a field day against Ruffin, either.

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