By now all BONers are likely to have noticed that the Longhorns prevailed 15-7 over Kansas State on Sunday to claim the Big XII Tournament title for the first time since 2003. Many readers are also sure to have seen that, despite finishing the season very strong, Texas did not quite make the cut to host a regional next week. The NCAA press release about the host sites also makes note of the breakdown by conference: a very strong year in the ACC was rewarded with four regional sites (FSU, UNC, NC State, and probable National No. 1 Seed Miami), with the Big XII not far behind hosting three. Our congratulations to A&M, Okie State, and Nebraska for representing the conference--but it certainly makes us wonder what might have been if Texas had just managed to take two of three from the Cowboys in Austin, or at least salvaged one game to avoid the sweep. That said, we'd much rather the 'Horns be playing well as a 2-seed outside of Austin than be in the Aggies' position (i.e. playing poorly as a likely 1-seed at home).
Our postseason outlook for this team remains similar to our prognosis for most of the year: they're young, they're talented, they're well-coached, and we would not be surprised by either a sub-regional exit or a trip to Omaha. They may not play at UFCUDFF again this season, though it's possible if they manage to win their sub-regional and the 2-seed across the bracket does the same. While we would love to speculate about where the selection committee will send Texas and which sub-regional the Longhorns will be paired up with, it would be rather pointless. You can tune into ESPN at 11:30 AM CDT on Monday to see the eight national seeds and the rest of the tournament bracket revealed live. We'll have plenty of fun breaking down the Tournament once it's official.
For now, though, we have an opportunity to spend a few minutes reflecting on an impressive run to the conference championship. Over the course of the week Texas showed the kind of versatility necessary to succeed in the postseason. They won with great pitching performances, and they won without them. They won with consistently solid defense (knock on wood), great hitting with runners in scoring position, and a surprising amount of power up and down the lineup.
Chance Ruffin gave another fantastic performance in Texas' first game, but the Longhorns took a tough 3-2 loss to Missouri in extra innings. Resilience is key in tournament play, however, and Texas showed plenty of it. They bounced back to beat the Aggies on Thursday for the fourth time in a week and then beat Oklahoma on Saturday in dramatic, bottom-of-the-ninth fashion after squandering a 6-1 lead. Finally, in Sunday's title game Texas and K-State fit the conference championship game mold perfectly as each squad's pitching was depleted enough to allow a 22-run offensive explosion. The Longhorns provided a comfortable majority of those runs to take the championship.
Pitcher of the Tournament: Chance Ruffin. He is really, really good. His six-inning, two-run, three-hit performance against the Tigers was the 'Horns' best pitching job of the week despite Ruffin's no-decision and Texas' eventual loss in the game.
Hitter of the Tournament: This one is a bit tough because of Jordan Danks' fantastic clutch hitting, but we have to agree with the sportswriters and go with Tournament MVP Brandon Belt. He hit .588 on the week including two doubles and a homerun.
Kiddie Corpsman of the Tournament: Cameron Rupp has become the type of defensive leader behind the plate that a young team needs to keep it steady. He also hit .438 on the week and had a hit in all four games, including a 3-for-4 performance in the championship.
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