10 Things to Watch in Omaha
By Christian Corona
A lot can happen in three years.
One minute, you’re among the greatest college baseball coaches in the game. The next, you’re in danger of losing your job, unable to win over a new athletics director who won’t give you the same vote of confidence your basketball contemporary earned in a similar situation.
Omaha is like a second home to Texas head baseball coach Augie Garrido, who is making his 15th trip to the College World Series this week – more than all but 10 teams – and his eighth with the Longhorns. After failing to reach the postseason each of the last two years, not even qualifying for the Big 12 tournament last season, Texas is back where senior right-hander Nathan Thornhill has said over and over again this program belongs.
Somewhere Texas is going for the 35th time in program history – nearly twice as many CWS appearances as the other seven Omaha-bound teams combined.
Thornhill will throw the first pitch of this year’s College World Series when the Longhorns take on UC-Irvine this Saturday at 3 p.m. in TD Ameritrade Park. Here are 10 things to know as you watch Texas play in the College World Series this week.
1. Payton’s, Thornhill’s experience all relative
Compared to their teammates, seniors Mark Payton and Nathan Thornhill are CWS veterans. But Payton and Thornhil don’t have extensive successful experience in Omaha.
Payton went 0-for-6 between the two CWS games Texas played in 2011, although he did draw one walk and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Thornhill faced five batters in his only Omaha appearance, three of which reached base – including a near-homer by Brian Johnson, who instead settled for a two-run double.
Ironically, the two guys Thornhill retired were both drafted that year, Josh Adams in the 13th round by the nearby Marlins and Mike Zunino, who was taken by the Mariners with the third overall pick and is now their everyday catcher.
Fellow senior Jacob Felts went 2-for-6 in the 2011 CWS as the Longhorns catcher but he’s now backing up freshman cleanup hitter Tres Barrera.
2. Pitching wins in Omaha
The last time a team gave up more than two runs in a game during the best-of-three national championship series was, ironically, when Texas lost to LSU, 11-4, in the 2009 title-clincher.