The Lone Star State will have a heavy presence at the 2014 College World Series. A trio of teams from the state of Texas, all from the Big 12 Conference, are among the eight participating teams, all vying for the ultimate prize: the NCAA Division I national championship in baseball.
College baseball is the last of the NCAA championships to be decided on the 2013-14 collegiate sports calendar, and it has come down to the final eight teams from what began two weekends ago as a 64-team bracket and 16 regional sites as part of the NCAA Baseball Championship.
No Division 1 teams is more family with Omaha and the College World Series than the Texas Longhorns. The Big 12′s fifth-place team this season, the Longhorns (43-19, 13-11) have been to the College World Series 34 times previously. This year makes 35, which is 14 more than the team with the second most appearances (University of Southern California).
This season is also the eighth time Texas has been in the College World Series since 2000, including national championships in 2002 and 2005.
The Longhorns also have the most wins all-time in CWS competition with 82 heading into this year’s championship. Their all-time CWS record is 82-57. Texas head coach Augie Garrido, who has been at Texas all 18 seasons of the Big 12 era, has made 15 CWS appearances. The winningest coach in college baseball history (1,197 career wins) is 38-20 in the CWS.
Texas was lowest seeded Big 12 team, according to the standings of the five teams from the conference that qualified for postseason competition this year.
The Longhorns’ path to the 2014 CWS included winning the Houston Regional, defeating Texas A&M 4-1 in the championship game (Rice was the top seed in that regional, Texas was the two seed and A&M was seeded third). The Horns then made short work of Houston in a Super Regional that UT hosted, winning 4-2 and 4-0 to advance to the CWS for the record 35th time in their history.
The Texas pitching staff ranks sixth nationally with a staff ERA of 2.32. The Longhorns’ 11 shutouts this season ranks seventh in the nation. Right-handed starter Nathan Thornhill has an ERA of 0.91 in his last five starts, and has allowed just three runs in his last 29 2/3 innings during that time frame.
Sophomore shortstop C.J. Hinojosa is one of the hottest hitters in the country in the 2014 postseason. Hinojosa is hitting .476 on 10 hits in 21 official at bats and has a team-high six RBI. Outfielder Mark Payton isn’t far behind, hitting .400 (8 for 20) and with a .556 on-base percentage.
The Longhorns will go up against UC Irvine (40-23), out of the Big West Conference, on Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. The Anteaters defeated Oklahoma State in back-to-back games in the Stillwater Super Regional to advance to this year’s CWS. UC Irvine has made only one previous appearance in the CWS (in 2007).
Key fact: Texas is 21-2 this season when scoring in the first inning.