Behind the strength of Kody Clemens’ power and David Pierce’s faith in his pitching staff, the Longhorn baseball team is back in Omaha at the College World Series. It’s the first appearance since 2014 and a record 36th.
Texas is to college baseball as Notre Dame is to college football or Kentucky is to college basketball. They are a “blue blood” program and make a strong case for the greatest college baseball program of all-time. Maybe that honor goes to Southern California, which has won national championships 12 of the 21 times they’ve been to the CWS — though it’s been 17 years since their last trip to Omaha. Maybe It’s LSU, which has the same amount of national titles as Texas (six) but 18 fewer trips to the CWS.
LISTEN: On Second Thought Ep 102: Texas coach David Pierce on CWS journey; Craig Way, voice of the Longhorns
It’s semantics to argue who’s the best, but Texas has the history to be at the very least one of the two best college baseball programs ever. And why do they hold this distinction?
Here’s a brief recap of every CWS appearance Texas, this time during the Augie Garrido era.
MORE: In front of family, fans and former players, former Texas coach Augie Garrido remembered for ‘his real accomplishments’
A lot had changed in the years between 1993 and 2000. Cliff Gustafson retired after winning the last SWC baseball championship — his 22nd of his 29-year career at Texas — in 1996.
For all the talk of Texas, when the jobs have opened, going out and hiring the best coaches in the sport to lead a program — think Nick Saban for football and (insert any big name basketball coach here) for hoops, only baseball has truly ever done it.
When Texas hired Augie Garrido before the 1997 season, it would be like if the Longhorns hired Tom Osborn to coach the football team in 1998. Garrido had already established himself as a legend — a clear hall of famer who won three national championships at a tiny college in California. He had already won more than a thousand games by the time he was hired at Texas.
Garrido employed a small-ball style of play, with the coach joking that he’d bunt Babe Ruth. His style clashed with that of his contemporary rival, LSU coach Skip Bertman, who preferred a power approach that took over college baseball in the 1990s.
It took Garrido a few seasons to get the Longhorns to the College World Series, but with Texas reaching the 2018 CWS, every recruiting class signed by Garrido at Texas would play in Omaha.
Of course, his first trip would be one of his shortest at Texas. The Longhorns lost games to eventual champion LSU and Florida State. Texas reached the CWS six times in the 2000s.
On top again.
Texas once again had a flawless CWS run, going 4-0 with wins over Rice, Stanford (twice) and South Carolina. Led by Most Outstanding Player and future MLB All-Star Huston Street, Texas capped off a 57-15 season in Garrido’s sixth campaign at Texas to give the coach his fourth national title and first of two at Texas.
The Longhorns broke a 19-year title drought and began a four-year CWS appearance streak that yielded two national titles and one runner-up finish.
Texas went 2-2 and was eliminated by in-state rival and eventual champion Rice. It is the first time Texas would be eliminated by a fellow Lone Star State team in the CWS.
Oh, the drama.
Texas reached the finals of the College World Series after a dramatic 7-6 win over Georgia only to face Garrido’s former team, Cal State Fullerton. To say it was an emotional series for the coach is an understatement. Fullerton beat Texas in back-to-back games, 6-4 and 3-2, to win the title.
Texas famously didn’t return to the field to accept the runner-up trophy, with Garrido saying later: “I thought the moment should belong to Cal State Fullerton.”
Texas has won six CWS titles. Four of them have been perfect runs through the tournament.
The Longhorns won their sixth title in 2005 by beating Baylor twice, Tulane and sweeping Florida in the championship round. It was Garrido’s fifth and final championship of his career. Texas finished the season 56-16, but actually finished third in the Big 12.
David Maroul was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and the team had future MLB players Drew Stubbs and Taylor Teagarden.
Garrido told the Statesman: “Sometimes wonderful things can happen in this game. Youngsters from age 18 to 23 are capable of anything. The brilliance in these kids is unlimited, and the adversity they overcame this season is to be commended.”
The Statesman’s Kirk Bohls wrote: “Texas did it the hard way. Despite not winning the Big 12 regular season or conference tournament championships and not qualifying as one of the eight national seeds, the battle-tested Longhorns won five straight elimination games in regional and super regional action, none bigger than two straight victories at SEC power Mississippi that followed an opening-game defeat.”
Texas returned to the CWS and reached the finals, where it pushed eventual champion LSU to a third and final game before losing 11-4. Texas nearly won a title, but lost the first game in extra innings 7-6 before rallying for a 5-1 win in Game 2. Texas previously beat Arizona State twice and Southern Mississippi to reach the final round.
After missing the CWS in 2010, Texas traveled back to Omaha but it was a short stay. The Longhorns went 0-2 in loses to Florida and North Carolina.
The last great run of Augie Garrido’s illustrious career came in 2014. With talk of the coach being replaced following disappointing seasons in 2012 and 2013, and after a 13-11 Big 12 season, Garrido rallied and returned to Omaha.
There Texas reached the national semifinals, beating Louisville and UC Irvine before facing eventual champion Vanderbilt. Texas beat the Commodores 4-0 to set up an elimination game. Vandy outlasted Texas 4-3 in 10 innings to advance to the championship round where it beat Virginia.
- A not so brief history of all of Texas’ 36 trips to the College World Series: Cliff Gustafson era
- A not so brief history of all of the Longhorns’ 36 trips to the College World Series: Bibb Falk era
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