The Texas Longhorns look to start their road back to Omaha today as they take on the Princeton Tigers in their first game of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
The Longhorns are the top seed in the Austin Regional, filled out by No. 2 Texas State, No. 3 Kent State and No. 4 Princeton. The appearance in the tournament is the 13th straight for the Longhorns, who fell just shy of returning to Omaha for the College World Series last year after losing to the TCU Horned Frogs.
Baseball America, one of the best sources of college baseball insight, says this of the Longhorns:
As usual, Texas is one of the nation's premier run-prevention outfits, allowing just 2.8 runs per game (second-best in college baseball behind Virginia's 2.7). And after setting a school record with 81 home runs a year ago, Texas has returned to full-scale Augie Ball-leading the country in sacrifice bunts (89) and hitting just 13 home runs as a team (258th in the nation). The lineup is not intimidating, but combined with UT's top-flight pitching and defense, it was good enough for Texas to win the Big 12 regular-season title for the third straight year. Unexpected freshmen have given Texas a huge boost, as third baseman Erich Weiss (.368/.510/.563, four HR, seven 3B, 38 RBI) leads the team in most offensive categories, and righthander Corey Knebel (2-2, 1.32, 16 saves) has been a dynamo at the back of the bullpen thanks to his fearlessness and outstanding command of a plus fastball. Texas has perhaps the nation's most reliable middle-infield tandem in shortstop Brandon Loy (.976 fielding percentage) and second baseman Jordan Etier (.975), helping the Longhorns rank third nationally with a .982 fielding percentage. The stellar defense gives ace Taylor Jungmann (13-0, 0.95, 116-27 K-BB in 123 innings) and the rest of the staff the peace of mind to pound the strike zone and let hitters put the ball in play. Jungmann, a sure-fire first-round pick, has strikeout stuff and has been remarkably efficient, recording five complete games and leading the nation in wins and ERA. The deep staff also features another key member of Texas' 2009 CWS Finals run, senior righthander Cole Green(7-3, 3.20), and two talented lefties in Hoby Milner (6-4, 2.58) and Sam Stafford (5-2, 1.70).
It seems pretty unlikely that Princeton would pose a serious threat to the Longhorns tonight, but stranger things have happened in the sports world.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CDT.