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In Memoriam: 2007 Baseball

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Six days ago, it was funny.

On the day the CWS pairings were announced, my father and I took a half hour away from Paris vacationing to head to an internet cafe. Who would my Longhorns draw in their regional? And who would my father's team, UC Irvine, travel to play?

The Anteaters are my father's team because he and my mother are employed by the university. My father a professor of sociology, my mother the dean of the graduate school. All season long, I've been hearing about the 'Eaters from my Dad - about their strong pitching, exceptional fundamental play, and top-to-bottom solid lineup that reminded him of the 2002 World Series-winning Anaheim Angels.

When we saw the pairing, we laughed. As we went back to our apartment, we kidded my mother that the vacation was ending short and we'd all be flying back to Austin for a baseball weekend. She predictably rolled her eyes; we all had a good chuckle. Like I said: it was funny.

We initially sidestepped thinking about the fact that the draw meant one of our two teams wouldn't be headed to the super regional. After the initial jostling died down, though, we both started griping. Texas had drawn what may be the best team from a loaded state. Meanwhile, UC Irvine had to play Texas, who, it could be argued, was the most dangerous team in the entire field, when playing well.

And they had to play the Longhorns in Austin.

I cut off my Dad's complaints, though, with one simple observation: "Yeah, but it's at Dell Diamond."

*****

UC Irvine did wind up beating Texas, and though they didn't beat the Longhorns because the game was played at Dell, I thought before this thing started that Texas' home field advantage was significantly dampened by the game not being played at the Disch, where Texas is almost automatic in the postseason. Disch-Faulk is such a unique place to play that the Longhorns regularly parlay the comfort with the home field and the outstanding Longhorn fans to postseason dominance.

At Dell, that advantage was partially negated. UC Irvine still had to play good baseball to beat Texas (and they did), but they also caught a break by not having to win at the Disch, which no one seems capable of doing.

Texas made some untimely errors, caught a few bad breaks, and ran into a very, very solid team that reminded a lot of people of a Garrido-coached squad. In hindsight, my father's comparison to the 2002 Angels seems apt.

And with that, Texas is out.

I didn't see any of this year's postseason games, which was unfortunate, but given the results, just as well. In the end, Randy Boone wore down. The 2007 team wasn't as good a defensive team as Texas' championship-winning teams were. The pitching was good at the top, but too thin beyond the very best.

It was a good team, but not a great one. Despite the record conference wins, many observers felt that this team wasn't built for postseason success, and they proved to be right. There's nothing to be ashamed of, and the outright conference title is something we all enjoy, but the Longhorn baseball team has never been shy about stating its singular goal: a national title. Anything less is considered a failure.

It's nice we've had the kind of success that allows a team to think that way, but it makes the losses just a little bit harder to swallow. The higher you fly, the farther you fall.

R.I.P. '07 Texas Baseball

--PB--