2011 College World Series: 10 Reasons Texas Can Win the Title
The University of Texas comes in as the seventh ranked team in the nation. They have won 49 games so far this season and have a wealth of veteran talent.
They also boast future Hall of Fame coach Augie Garrido. And yet, it seems that no one is talking about them as a favorite to win the whole thing.
We might be able to chalk it up to this year's field being as strong as any in memory. More likely, though, it has to do with concerns over whether or not the Longhorns will score enough runs to win it all.
Personally, I'm of the belief that their pitching and defense is good enough to carry their offense and it really only takes one or two guys getting hot to get the offense going. Plus, these news bats have de-emphasized offense, making their lack of punch much less egregious.
Here are my top ten reasons the Texas Longhorns could come away victorious.
1. Augie Garrido
Augie Garrido is truly royalty among college baseball coaches. Garrido has won five national titles with two different programs, spanning four decades.
In total, Garrido has 1,817 wins as a Division I head coach, a .688 winning percentage and is in his 43rd season of coaching.
In short, there is nothing that he hasn't seen in his career. He knows how to get the best out of his players at the most important time of the year. He is a steady influence in the dugout and his calm demeanor is a lead his team follows.
If the national champion was based solely on coaching acumen, the Longhorns might run away with the hardware easily.
2. Taylor Jungmann
There may not be a more established or dominant ace than Taylor Jungmann in all of college baseball. This season, Jungmann went 13-2 with a 1.38 ERA and had 123 strikeouts in 136.2 innings pitched.
Most importantly for the Longhorns' title hopes, Jungmann is one of the few pitchers in the nation that might be able to shut down Florida's daunted offense in their opening game. A win in that game and Texas moves on to the winner's bracket, where their pitching will stay fresher and more rested.
Jungmann has lost his last two starts, but I don't know that there's any reason for alarm for Longhorn fans. He did give up some big hits in his loss two starts ago against Kent State, but his loss last week at the hands of Arizona State had more to do with his defense failing him and less to do with him making mistakes.
Jungmann has pitched well in Omaha before and there's no reason to believe that won't continue in Texas' opener Saturday night against the Gators.
3. Bullpen Depth
Texas boasts an embarrassment of riches in their bullpen.
They are led by closer Corey Knebel. In 37 appearances, he has a 1.15 ERA and 19 saves. He is as close to automatic as it gets.
If you include Hoby Milner, who has split time between starting and relieving, the Longhorns have six relievers with ERAs of 2.95 or lower.
If Texas gets out to an early lead, they can rest easy knowing that they have plenty of arms in the bullpen that can lock the win down.
4. Rubber-Armed Pitchers
The College World Series is a long tournament. Even the best of teams can run short on pitching. It becomes an even bigger grind if a team falls to the loser's bracket.
The Longhorns are better-equipped to deal with a situation like that than most teams. Not only do they have a myriad of talented pitchers with great numbers, many of those pitchers can throw in long relief.
The aforementioned Hoby Milner has started nine games this season. Corey Knebel, Nathan Thornhill, Kendal Carrillo and Josh Urban all average more than one inning pitched per appearance.
If a team stays in the winner's bracket, the schedule works out to where they really only need two starting pitchers. If Texas finds itself in that situation, they could have usual weekend starter Cole Green in a relief role as well.
The Longhorns are one of the elite defensive teams in the nation. Their out of character defensive lapses last Friday against Arizona State not withstanding, the Longhorns pitchers know they can pitch to contact and have a ton of success.
As a team, they have a .982 fielding percentage. Every regular in the Longhorns' lineup has a fielding percentage of .956 or higher.
There is simply no weak spot in Texas' defensive lineup.
6. Brandon Loy
Texas has often been criticized this season for their anemic offense and rightfully so. Their .272 team batting average leaves a lot to be desired.
Opposing teams can't overlook Brandon Loy, though. Loy has a .344 batting average, 23 doubles and 19 steals. That's not to mention his ample experience in big games. As a three year starter for Texas, Loy has played in dozens of regional, super regional and College World Series games.
As a matter of fact, in the 2009 College World Series, Loy had five hits and drove in four runs. Loy personifies Texas' steady, small-ball approach at the plate.
7. Team Speed
To help remedy their offensive struggles, the Longhorns will look to run in certain situations. As a team, they have 75 steals in 95 attempts.
Loy leads the way with 19 steals, but Texas gets contributions in this department from just about everyone. Erich Weiss has 11 steals, Tant Shepard has eight, Mark Payton, Jonathan Walsh and Jordan Etier all have six.
If the Longhorns get leadoff runners on, look for them to try to get something going on the base paths.
8. Commitment to Small Ball
With the new BBCOR bats sapping power numbers across the nation, many teams wanted to put more emphasis on playing small ball. That is, they wanted to bunt more runners over into scoring position to try to play for a single run rather than a big inning.
Few teams really stuck to it like the Texas Longhorns. Thanks to Augie Garrido, they already had an affinity for playing this way, but the new bats increased the rate at which they bunt runners over.
As a team, they have 109 sacrifice bunts. Mark Payton leads the team with 19. Seven different players have double digit totals in sac bunts.
9. They Are Battle-Tested
Texas lost a game to Kent State in the regional early and had to go through the loser's bracket to come back and advance. Then, in the super regional against Arizona State, they lost the opening game before coming back to win the next two and advance.
Some will use this evidence to say that Texas is primed to go down. I tend to take it the other way and say that Texas has faced adversity and battled back well.
I'd be more concerned about a team like North Carolina that has breezed through both their regional and super regional matchup. We don't know how they will respond to adversity. Give me the team that has been in some tough battles over the team that has yet to break a sweat.
10. Veteran Leadership
The Longhorns are certainly young in some spots. Freshman like Erich Weiss, Mark Payton and Jacob Felts have had to play big roles. Cohl Walla and Jonathan Walsh are just sophomore and have never been to Omaha.
Those younger guys will be looking to the veterans for leadership. Brandon Loy and Tant Shepard are those guys on offense. They have both been highly successful players that have been to Omaha before. Even though his role has been diminished this season, a guy like Kevin Lusson is important for the same reason.
Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green both have Omaha experience and while he has been battling an injury all season, having Austin Dicharry with the team will give them another veteran to look to.