[Update]: The game for Friday evening has been canceled because of rain. Texas and Duke will play a double-header on Saturday, with the first game scheduled for a 2 pm CST start and the second for 6 pm CST. --Wescott--
Texas baseball begins the journey back to Omaha tonight with a 7 PM Central tilt with Duke. This Horns team will be of completely different character than the one that accomplished its goal in 2011 (reach Omaha) but failed to win a game while there. Gone are Taylor Jungmann, Cole Green, Brandon Loy and Tant Shepard (to the pros), CF Cohl Walla and likely Friday starter Sam Stafford (injury), and 2B Jordan Etier (4 game suspension).
What you will see if you watch Texas in 2012 will be a number of very talented young pitchers on the mound, none who are likely to bring Jungmann's star power. At the plate you'll see Erich Weiss and a whole lot of question marks looking to pound out enough runs to win some ball games. In the field you should see one of the Big 12's best fielding ballclubs with huge questions at arguably the two most important defensive positions aside from catcher (SS and CF).
If you are fortunate enough to have the Longhorn Network, then tonight's matchup will be the first of many spectacular treats for the year as all but one home game is slated to appear on LHN. If you don't have LHN, then welcome back to 2001, hope your radio gets 1300 AM without static.
The Duke Blue Devils were 26-30 a year ago, having fairly horrendous marks on the road (5-17) and in conference play (7-23). Sophomore outfielder Anthony D'Alessandro is the lone returning Blue Devil to hit above .300 in 2011, posting a .303/.383/.364 (BA/OBP/Slg) line. The Duke offense also returns sophomore Chris Marconcini, who led the Blue Devil offense with 4 homers a year ago. As a team Duke managed just 10 long balls in 56 contests.
Duke returns Marcus Stroman and Robert Huber, both weekend starters for the Blue Devils last year. Neither was particularly amazing, although Stroman's record belies an impressive season (90 Ks in 64 IP, 4 saves, 4.5:1 BB:K ratio).
Join us after the jump for the weekend's pitching matchups and tonight's open thread.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 - 7 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Nathan Thornhill (3-0, 1.89 ERA)
Duke: RHP Marcus Stroman (3-4, 2.80 ERA)
Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 - 6 p.m. Central
Texas: LHP Hoby Milner (7-4, 2.45 ERA)
Duke: LHP Trent Swart (Freshman)
Sunday, Feb. 19, 2011 - 12 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP John Curtiss (Freshman)
Duke: RHP Robert Huber (4-1, 4.37 ERA)