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Horns Head To Omaha

4 titles down in '09, 2 to go. The Horns are the #1 seed in Omaha. Most media more or less agree that Texas is one of the top two pitching teams in Omaha, probably the best fielding team in Omaha, and a team with all the intangibles. But you'd be hard pressed to find a single member of the national media willing to predict the Horns as champions.

On paper the Horns have a very favorable road to the championship series. In game one they get the lowest seeded (although arguably the hottest) team in the field in Southern Miss, then they get the winner of what should be an epic duel between UNC and Arizona State ace Mike Leake (although ASU has two bona fide aces, not much drop off past Leake). Yet Texas doesn't have a single Baseball America All-American (1st, 2nd or 3rd team) and only two Texas players were drafted in Tuesday's draft. Judging by the pre-CWS hooplah, you'd think Texas got to Omaha on luck and Augie alone.

First things first though. Southern Miss hits the ball okay (.307 BA good for 117 nationally) and don't really pitch all that stupendously (53 runs given up in 6 postseason games). But they're in Omaha, so they must be doing something right. Only two Southern Miss pitchers have more than 10 starts, Friday starter JR Ballinger (6-3, 3.89 ERA) and Todd McInnis (9-4, 3.61 ERA), who are both pretty solid, and ace reliever Collin Cargill (3.32 ERA, 13 saves) is legit.

The Golden Eagles have a few big bats, most notably CF Bo Davis (.371 BA with 14 HRs), and SS Brian Dozier (.394 BA with 4 HRs in 35 games) is on the CWS roster despite breaking his collarbone in mid-April.

To break down the bottom line, Texas should beat Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles came from behind late to beat Elon with 5 in the 9th, then took advantage of 5 Georgia Tech errors in their second game, followed by a big 9-run second inning in an elimination game against the Yellow Jackets. USM beat Florida in the super regional by getting to the Gators' bullpen for 8 runs in two games.

The key to Texas beating Southern Miss, therefore, is to keep doing what it has been doing. Get the leadoff man on base and get a few early runs, get strong starting pitching and solid relief pitching, those are the keys. Southern Miss' starting pitching has been quite poor in the tournament, having had only one starter go more than 5 innings this postseason. They have hit the ball well and taken advantage of opponents mistakes. Texas this season has prevented opponents from hitting the ball well and made few mistakes.

Of course if previous trends and statistics determined winners then neither Oregon State nor Fresno State would have titles. Horns-Golden Eagles starts at 6 PM...some more articles for your reading enjoyment:

Baseball America breaks down the field

The Horns don't bludgeon, they strangle

Yahoo has the CWS schedule

BA breaks down the stats

This years' Horns are CWS newcomers

Kevin Keyes is pretty good


Today's schedule:

CSF vs. Arkansas -- 1 PM

LSU vs. Virginia -- 6 PM