The Texas Longhorns baseball team opens the College World Series with a rematch against the UC-Irvine Anteaters (43-20). The Longhorns (43-19) have a chance to exact revenge on the team that knocked it out of its own regional back in 2007.
You remember those games, right?
UC-Irvine came to town for the Austin Regional. This one was played at the Dell Diamond while UFCU Disch-Falk got a facelift. The Anteaters beat Texas twice, 3-1 and 9-6, to advance to the Wichita Super Regional, and then on to the CWS.
This game pits two veteran coaches against one another. Augie Garrido makes his 15th CWS appearance. UC-Irvine coach Mike Gillespie returns to Omaha for the first time since 2001 when he coached at USC. Both skippers set milestones this season – Garrido becoming college baseball’s all-time leader in wins, while Gillespie picked up his 1,000 win earlier this year. The two schools are also very similar with the style of baseball played – strong pitching and execution on offense.
All-American Andrew Morales is expected to get the start against Texas. Morales threw a complete game gem versus Oklahoma State to win the Stillwater Super Regional. The senior is 11-2 with a 1.53 ERA. He has 136 strikeouts in 129.2 innings this season. Morales will need to be on his game, because the Anteaters are not a powerhouse offensively.
Connor Spencer and Taylor Sparks lead an offensive attack that averages 4.4 runs a game. As a team, UC-Irvine hits .272. The Anteaters have only 12 home runs this season, forcing Gillespie’s crew to manufacture scoring opportunities. UC-Irvine is second in the country with 88 sacrifices (UT is No. 1 with 96).
Texas will most likely counter with Nathan Thornhill. Thornhill has been tough recently, allowing just three runs in his last 29.2 innings. The senior shut down a potent Houston offense last weekend to help get the Longhorns off to a good start in the Austin Super Regional.
Several players are swinging hot bats at the right time. CJ Hinojosa is hitting .476 this postseason and has a team-high six RBI. Mark Payton has reached base in 101 consecutive games, and is batting .400. Madison Carter is hitting .385 with 14 runs scored in his last 14 games.
Texas and UC-Irvine play at 2:00 PM CT on Saturday on ESPN.