Garrido proving he still has magic touch

OMAHA, Neb. - The Texas Longhorns seem to rack up the victories every time they reach the College World Series. With the help of Augie Garrido's former players, Burnt Orange Beat takes a look at exactly how the coach excels on the big stage.

As Connor Rowe was rounding the bases on Friday night, Chance Wheeless was sitting at his Austin home, getting the strangest feeling of deja vu.

The last time the Longhorns were in Omaha, in 2005, Wheeless hit a walkoff home run against Baylor to catapult the Longhorns into the national championship series.

Rowe's round-tripper had done the exact same thing.

"It was pretty much the same situation," Wheeless said. "The same score and everything. The only difference I guess was that I kind of hurt my shoulder."

At this point, the Longhorns are accustomed to the wild wins in Omaha. Some call it luck, but after all this success, that seems unlikely. Earlier in the week, Augie Garrido joked that they'd hired a new assistant coach, David Copperfield.

Whatever Garrido is doing, the Longhorns of the past and present know it works. And they expect the magic to happen in Omaha.

"I swear I knew it was coming," said Woodrow ‘Pack' Landfair, who served as the Longhorns' bullpen catcher between 2003 and 2005.

Former Texas pitcher Randy Boone is currently playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. He caught a current teammate questioning Garrido's methods during the Southern Miss game.

"A guy on the team asked me why [Moldenhauer] was hitting cleanup with those numbers," said Boone. "I go, ‘Augie has a feeling and I will never doubt Augie's feelings. He will probably hit a bomb.'

"I mean, how can you not love a guy that tosses Moldenhauer into the cleanup spot and he hits a homer and a double?"

That's not to say all of the credit goes to Garrido.

Pitching coach Skip Johnson is in his third year on the 40 Acres, and this season is the first that the Horns' pitching staff has been largely comprised of his recruits.

The result has been a 2.88 team earned-run average with a young pitching staff. The Longhorns have just one upperclassman with more than ten innings pitched on the season.

Boone isn't surprised about the job Johnson is doing with his pitchers.

"I think what is getting lost in this thing is that you have a pitching staff that has never pitched on this stage before," he said. "The job [Johnson] has done with these guys has been remarkable.

"They just don't seem rattled at all. I think that goes back to the confidence they have in each other. In the end, if one guy doesn't get the job done, he knows the next guy will. A lot of that comes from Skip and his ability to relate to the staff."

But the one constant over the years has been Augie Garrido.

The Longhorns have started 3-0 each of the last three times they've been to the College World Series. In Garrido's six CWS appearances at Texas, his teams have advanced to the championship unscathed four times.

When Garrido's Texas clubs get off the bus in Omaha, they always appear more relaxed and prepared than their opponents. The same was even true this season, though nobody on the Texas roster had ever played a game at Rosenblatt Stadium.

According to his former players, the preparation to play at the CWS starts from day one, and that's what makes him special.

"I think it's the way we are prepared from the beginning of the season," Boone said. "Our practices, our meetings, and everything are set up to get us ready to play for a national title. With Coach Garrido, there's a trust factor that if he says we are ready to play on that level, he knows what he's talking about.

"He has so much experience dealing with Omaha that you can't help but think you are the most prepared team on the field."

Wheeless echoed the sentiments.

"You want to win for him and you want to win for the school so much because of the way he presents everything to you," said the former UT first baseman. "If you can get on board with his positive thinking and way of thought, then you're going to find yourself winning in a pressure situation.

"A lot of teams let nerves get to them. You can tell when watching the games that others sort of just cave in, while our team is destined to be there."

While Garrido's former players trust his on-field advice, they say he also affects their lives off the field. Landfair recalls a speech Garrido gave his team shortly after they won the '05 championship.

"Moments after we won the 2005 title," he said, "Augie gave us a private speech in the locker room. That speech, along with winning the National Championship, changed my life forever.

"All Augie said was this: ‘Winning this National Championship is a great thing, but it doesn't need to be the greatest accomplishment of your life. You can use this experience to give you the confidence to achieve anything you ever dream of.'

"That's all he said. I've always remembered that. I always will."

For at least two more days, the Longhorns aren't focused on the rest of their lives. They want to bring a seventh National Championship to Austin.

A member of the Longhorns' last championship club, Boone knows how the team is feeling, and he believes they're going to be tough to stop.

"What this team is experiencing right now is that they can get the job done no matter what the situation is," Boone explained. "They are carrying a tremendous amount of confidence with them right now. A team with complete confidence in themselves is a scary opponent in this game."

As Texas goes into Monday night's championship series opener against LSU, Landfair—and all former Longhorns across the country—will be cheering the club on.

"We had our turn to write a chapter in Texas baseball history," said Landfair, who will be watching from his apartment in Queens, New York. "This is their turn now."

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