College World Series 2011: Previewing Texas Baseball In Omaha

There is little about the Texas Longhorns' baseball history that won't open eyes. Start with the Longhorns' 34 trips to the College World Series, most in the country. They also have the best winning percentage of any program in the country and are second in the nation with six NCAA championships. Just to add to it, they are led by Augie Garrido, the winningest coach in NCAA history so seeing Texas back in Omaha isn't the least bit of a surprise.

The Longhorns won their 77th regular season conference title this season and with it, earned the number seven national seed with it. Everything about Selection Monday looked good for Texas. They had their national seed, and in the opinion of many, one of the easiest paths to Omaha. Things went wrong in the Regional when they were upset by Kent St. though. As a result, the Longhorns had to win three straight elimination games to move onto the Super Regionals. There, they lost the opener to Arizona St. and had to win two more elimination games, which they did to book their ticket to Omaha.

National seeds are nice and theoretically would make Texas one of the favorites to win the College World Series, but the Longhorns appear to be the least likely team to win the title in just their own bracket. They have three other national seeds in their bracket, all of whom are ranked higher than Texas. If any team in that bracket appeared to be in danger of going out early in Omaha, it might be the Longhorns.

The reason that the Longhorns are a step behind their counterparts in bracket one is their offense. The starting pitching is there. The bullpen is strong. The defense is as good as any team in the nation, but the offense is a major question mark and that's not limited to just their bracket. It is the weakest offense of the eight teams in Omaha and going up against the best pitching staffs in the country won't help.

Garrido's teams rarely have a high octane offense. They play in a big ballpark and rely on balls in the gap, athleticism and execution of small ball more than anything else. It's rare to see them bash the ball out of the park and it hasn't stopped the Longhorns from going to Omaha seven times since Garrido took over in 1997, twice winning national title. 

So Texas doesn't usually have an amazing offense and it's never stopped them before, but this year they are exceptionally weak at the plate. They hit just .272 as a team and only three players hit over .300 this season. Four regulars hit under .255 and only two players hit more than two home runs this season. Texas manages what they can with a lot of hitting behind runners and sacrifice bunts (they led the nation in sac bunts this season), but the offense isn't going to put a major scare in anyone.

How does a team with such a questionable offense win the Big XII and get a national seed then? They can sure pitch it. Taylor Jungmann is one of the top pitchers in the country and a first round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers and Cole Green and Sam Stafford back him up in the rotation. Corey Knebel is one of the top closers in the country and has 19 saves to his name, while three other arms are shutdown guys in front of him.

If the offense can back up the pitching staff, the Longhorns can undoubtedly win the national title. Their pitching, second in the country with a 2.27 team ERA, can carry any team with just the slightest bit of help. The question is whether or not the offense can provide that slightest bit of help and with Florida, Vanderbilt and North Carolina in their bracket, getting the slightest bit of help won't be easy.

Probable Starters For Opening Two Games

Taylor Jungmann, Cole Green - All regular season long, nobody could beat Jungmann. He was 13-0 and completely dominant, but he's lost both of his starts in the postseason. Even so, the flamethrower has a 1.38 ERA and mind-boggling 123 strikeouts to just 32 walks. What the Longhorns can get out of Green is less certain with a 3.03 ERA and pinpoint command, but he has been hit before. Both Jungmann and Green have experience with Texas going to the Championship Series two years ago so if nothing else, they will be composed.

Key Player

Erich Weiss - Throw any freshman into the College World Series and you're not 100% sure what you're going to get, but Weiss has looked like anything but a freshman this season. With a .358 batting average, 44 RBI, .532 slugging percentage and .495 on-base percentage (all team bests) to go along with four homers, Weiss is one of just a couple real threats in the Texas lineup.

Prediction

Getting past Florida in the opener will be tough, but with Jungmann on the mound the Longhorns have a chance. Even so, it's tough to see the offense doing enough to get Texas through what is being billed the "Bracket of Death." They have the coach. They have the experience having just been there two years ago. They have the ability to play under pressure after winning five consecutive elimination games to get to Omaha. It just doesn't look like they have the offense to win more than one game in Omaha.

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