Longhorns dream big in Omaha
AUSTIN, Texas -- Fall camp had ended. Augie Garrido stood in front of his team and knew what he saw.
He'd seen it before -- the final stages, anyway -- five times at three different places, so his confidence could only strengthen his message's impact.
"There's a champion in here somewhere," he told his team.
It didn't come without a warning, though.
"It's going to take teamwork," he told them, "and it's going to take swagger, it's going to take an attitude, and we're going to have to have all of that going for us, because we're not going to be blessed with the kind of talent that it's going to just be an easy ride."
On Sunday, Texas took another big step toward making that possibility a reality. The Longhorns, after losing the opener to Arizona State, won a pair of games to reach Omaha for the 34th time, while using four pitchers in the rubber match.
"You start to get a philosophy and you start to get locked in and then boom, before you know it, here comes another arm. Different arm action, different everything," said Arizona State coach Tim Esmay. "That's always tough on an offense. That part of it, this time of year, that's why Texas is playing in the College World Series, because they have that ability to change rhythms with offenses."
But once the Longhorns had clinched a spot among the last eight teams standing, they eschewed the traditional dogpile for a few reserved high fives and a team meeting in the outfield.
"Our goal is always to win a national championship, and that's why we don't have the big celebrations when we win a super regional, that's just not our style," said Texas shortstop Brandon Loy. "Our overall goal is right out in front of us. It's exciting for us. We're excited about the position we're in, but we're not satisfied."
Last season, TCU denied Texas a chance to compete for its first national title since 2005 by winning a decisive Game 3 in the Austin Super Regional. But Texas is back, and along with that deep pitching staff, it also boasts one of the nation's best pitchers, righty Taylor Jungmann, who was selected 12th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in last week's MLB draft.
"They know who they are, and they do not deviate from it," Esmay said. "With the defense they play, they just do not let the crack open. It allows their offense to kind of just stay with it."
Texas' offense hasn't earned a reputation as big hitters, but Garrido still feels good about it heading into the season's most important week.
"If you take the first part of the season away, and look at the second part of the season, it's pretty doggone good," Garrido said, noting that in his experience, players from Texas play better in the often sweltering heat of the second half of the college baseball season.
Waiting for the Longhorns in their Omaha opener? Florida.
"They hit balls far, and often," Garrido said. "What you have to do in the College World Series is take the home run away from them. Good pitching does that. Good pitching doesn't stop them from hitting, they'll hit. But good pitching stops home runs."
Jungmann will be charged with doing that against the Gators, but after going his entire career without a loss on his home field, he racked up two of them in the regional and super regionals. Meanwhile, including the Big 12 tournament, Texas won eight of nine elimination games. Could an opening-round forfeit be the key to winning a title?
"I'm going to pitch Jungmann and see if he can win a game," Garrido said with a laugh.
David Ubben covers college sports for ESPN.com.
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