Texas won its sixteenth straight game Sunday, sweeping Oklahoma State and picking up two games on second-place KSU in the process. Mizzou beat K-State in their only two games this weekend, dropping the 'Cats to 9-5 in the conference to Texas' 16-2. The story from the weekend was essentially the same as the three straight sweeps that came before it: starting pitching was superb, the bats kept rolling behind Kevin Keyes and his supporting cast, and Texas coasted past an opponent whom the 'Horns simply outclassed.
With the familiar yet glorious storyline repeating itself again, we thought that the weekend review might better take the form of a conversation about what is now expected of this team considering its recent dominance in the league. (Though for your edification, you can read about the series here, here, and here.) The narrative of this season has changed dramatically. Texas is no longer a plucky team that gets by on its pitching and defense alone. Instead, Augie's boys have blossomed on the offensive side as well; and a baseball team that can beat you with its pitching and its hitting is a scary prospect for anyone. After the jump, a few thoughts on what this recent run means going forward.
In college baseball's postseason system, he who has the dominant pitching is the favorite. Usually, if a squad has two guys who can go out there and consistently give their team a great start, that's all you need to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. In the sub-regional and super-regional, picking up two near-guaranteed wins usually means a June trip to Omaha. The reason Texas fans ought to be especially excited in 2010 is that the Longhorns have four pitchers who can potentially take the hill and shut down a very good team.
At this point, the Big XII regular season title is as much a foregone conclusion as anything in sports ever is. If Texas fails to win that prize, then something has gone terribly wrong over the next few weeks and we'll just be hoping to host a sub-regional. Assuming things continue on the current path, though, anyone hoping to get past Texas for a CWS berth will have to beat the Longhorns in Austin. And that's really good news for Texas.
The issue that most teams have when they make it to Omaha is that the World Series format does not give them much margin for error. Say, for instance, you have two great pitchers and then a significant drop off like most top college teams do. If the other guy's great pitcher beats your great pitcher in either your first or second game in Omaha, you're left hoping that your other guys can fight their way through the losers' bracket. Even if you're successful you'll probably have the unappealing option of either A) tossing a midweek starter against the winner's bracket winner's ace, or B) throwing your ace on short rest. Oh, and don't forget: if you manage to win that one, you have to beat the other guys again.
If you're Augie Garrido, though, your prospects are much less bleak. If Texas were to make it to Omaha and then the unthinkable were to happen in the first game there--i.e., Taylor Jungmann loses--the stable is full of starters who would likely be the ace of 95% of the country's pitching staffs. Cole Green has arguably been better than TJ lately, Brandon Workman has settled in and been elite lately, and don't think for a minute that Chance Ruffin wouldn't be thrilled to get a start in the postseason if needed. And therein lies Texas' advantage over everyone else in the NCAA Tournament: margin for error.
Of course, if the bats stay as hot as they are right now, the Longhorns will be awfully tough to beat in the first place. But even if not, the 'Horns have a great shot at being there for the final College World Series in Rosenblatt Stadium.
A post like this may seem silly in April. It's true that there's a long way to go, but a run like the one Texas is having lends itself to a reevaluation of Tournament expectations. So here we are, putting it out there: as for us, we expect to see a burnt orange invasion of Johnny Rosenblatt's house, and we don't expect it to end until there's been a dogpile. As Augie has said many times, that's what the expectations ought to be--because this is Texas.