The Longhorns came out and took care of business against the Aggies in Games One and Two of this season-ending series, making tonight's finale somewhat anti-climactic. Win or lose, Texas takes the Big 12 title and the top seed in next week's conference tournament, and has already done enough to keep the Lone Star Showdown trophy in Austin where it belongs. On Friday it was Texas showing its Friday starter was far superior to A&M's best starter. On Saturday it was Texas showing its bullpen is superior to the A&M bullpen.
However, there are three good reasons for the Longhorns to care about this game and do everything they can to get the W:
- Winning the conference outright. A loss will mean A&M technically ties for the Big 12 regular-season championship. And we all know how the Aggies tend to get overly proud when they play second fiddle in a tied conference championship situation. There will no doubt be a massive sign put up in College Station proclaiming the Ags "2011 Big 12 Champions," conspicuously failing to include the crucial "co-" prefix. Honestly, it's not so uncommon for athletic programs that have experienced only rare & fleeting success to just declare themselves winners when they fall short of fully earning it. It would still be nice to deprive Little Brother of that pleasure. If the Horns lose and the Ags want to claim that the team with the better record and a head-to-head victory is equal to the team with fewer wins then who are we to talk down the delusional?
- In a less vindictive and more important vein, Texas has had a hard time closing the deal in recent weeks. They have won the first two games and lost the third in three straight series now, and have taken two out of three games for five straight weekends since sweeping Mizzou the first weekend in April. While that consistency is nice, and winning two of every three games from here on out would mathematically mean a national championship, it would be better to show some killer instinct and take all three from the Ags heading into the postseason.
- Finally, we feel pretty strongly that Texas will host in the first round of the NCAA tournament based solely on the strength of what it has accomplished thus far. Of course the real prize is earning a top eight national seed which would allow for hosting a super regional series. The Horns are in extremely strong position to lock that up and a sweep of the Aggies in the season's final series would all but ensure hosting a super. Texas is probably in good shape to host a super even with a loss tonight and losses in the relatively insignificant conference tournament, but the less the NCAA selection committee has to think about it the better.
The Aggy third starter is Ross Stripling, who started the season in the bullpen before moving to the Sunday starter role in Big 12 play. Stripling has put together an impressive stat line: 86 IP, 11-2, 2.09 ERA, .199 BAA, and 83 K against only 13 BB. Sam Stafford has similarly impressive stats: 5-2, 1.79 ERA, .192 BAA, 64 K in only 55.1 IP. Stafford's problem has been an inability to pitch deep into games, usually due to loss of control after a few spectacular innings. His last four starts have only gone 3.1, 3.2, 3 (midweek declared start), and 5 innings, putting added pressure on the bullpen.This is your open thread for tonight's game; first pitch is at 6 PM CDT, and TV coverage is on FSN.