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 has made, starting with the Bibb Falk era.
California beat Yale 17-8 and 8-7 in a two-game sweep for the title. Maybe the most famous thing about this 1947 tournament is future president George H.W. Bush was Yale’s captain.
Texas, however, also made the eight team postseason that year, along with Clemson, New York University, Illinois, Denver and, of course, Oklahoma. In fact, Texas’ first-ever win in the College World Series was a 10-9 victory over the Sooners in Denver. Texas, coached by Bibb Falk, lost to Cal 8-7 and missed a chance to head to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where the finals were hosted.
Texas finished 20-2 overall with an 18-1 collegiate record.
The first CWS title and the last team to win the CWS outside Omaha, was Falk’s Texas team. The Longhorns, led by Most Outstanding Player Tom Hamilton, defeated Wake Forest in the finals held in Wichita, Kansas, 10-3. The Longhorns won the double elimination tournament by a combined score of 25-5, with two wins over Wake Forest and a win over St. John’s. It’s one of the most dominating performances of the tournament’s early years.
To get there, Texas again beat Oklahoma, 7-3 and 3-2 to win Region C in Austin. Charles Gorin and Murray Wall were a few other notable names on the first title team, a group that went 23-7 overall.
What better way to begin the rich history of the College World Series in Omaha by Texas winning the first title held in Nebraska? The location’s most frequent guest won back-to-back titles in an expanded tournament field. The NCAA did away with preliminary rounds and all the teams were selected and sent to Omaha and Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium.
The most famous thing that happened in the tournament came via Jim Ehler. The Texas pitcher threw the first no-hitter in CWS history in a 7-0 win over Tufts.
Texas also defeated Rutgers, Colorado A&M and Washington State twice en route to the title. The Longhorns dropped their first game of the tournament to Rutgers, 4-2, and had to battle back in the double-elimination tournament. Texas got revenge on Rutgers and its MOP Ray VanCleef, in a 15-9 win that vaulted Texas, led by Gorin, Wall and Kal Segrist, into the title game against WSU. Texas won 3-0.
Texas was the first team to win the CWS back-to-back and finished 27-6 overall.
Texas lost to Penn State 5-3 and eventual champion Holy Cross 2-1 with a 10-1 win over Oregon State in between in their fourth CWS appearance. Texas was 19-9 overall.
The first time Texas finished as CWS runner-up, the Longhorns played eventual champion Michigan three times over six games, going 1-2 against the Wolverines. The Longhorns also scored wins over Duke and Lafayette during the tournament.
After reaching the College World Series six times over seven seasons from 1949 to 1953, Texas missed the CWS in three consecutive years before returning. They went 1-2 in this tournament, beating Connecticut but losing back-to-back games to Penn State and Notre Dame for a fifth-place finish. Cal won the title with a win over Penn State.
The first of seven CWS appearances in the 1960s, Texas lost its first two games of the field against eventual champion USC and Western Michigan.
Texas dropped its first game to eventual champion Michigan but won three straight games against Colorado State, Ithaca College and Michigan before losing to Santa Clara 4-3.
Texas went 2-2 in the tournament, beating eventual champion USC and Penn State, but losing to Missouri and was knocked out by Arizona.
Texas lost its first two games, losing to Washington State 12-5 and Florida State 3-2. Arizona State would go on to beat Ohio State to win the championship.
The final CWS appearance under Falk. Texas went 1-2, beating Arizona 5-1 but dropping the next games against St. John’s 2-0 and Oklahoma State 6-1.
Falk retired in 1967 after winning 434 games at Texas, 20 Southwest Conference titles, 11 CWS trips and two national championships. The stadium the Longhorns play in today is partially named after him.
CONTINUE: A not so brief history of all of Texas’ 36 trips to the College World Series: Cliff Gustafson era
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