A week ago, six Big 12 schools entered postseason play with hopes and dreams of extending their seasons and earning a place in the NCAA Baseball Championship’s elite Round of Eight, better known as the College World Series. Only two of the six teams, however, survived first-round regional action last weekend.
Texas and Texas A&M, the Big 12’s regular-season champion and winner of the conference championship tournament, respectively, are the lone Big 12 schools left standing as the NCAA Championship heads into Super Regional play, beginning today.
Texas, seeded No. 7 among the 64 teams that started in the NCAA tournament, is hosting one of the eight Super Regionals, where the Longhorns will be matched up against Arizona State out of the Pac-12 Conference. The Longhorns (47-16) will need to win two out of three from the Sun Devils (42-16) to punch their ticket to Omaha and the CWS. That series begins in Austin tonight, with games two and three, if necessary, set for Saturday and Sunday night.
The Big 12’s top pitcher, Taylor Jungmann, picked No, 1 by the Milwaukee Brewers and 12th overall in this week’s 2011 MLB draft, will get the call on the hill in Game 1 tonight for the Longhorns. Jungmann is 13-1 with an ERA of 1.39, tied for the fourth best in the country this season, in 16 starts for veteran coach Augie Garrido’s Texas squad.
Both the Longhorns and Sun Devils have been historical juggernauts in the world of college baseball. Texas has won six national championships in baseball and have won more College World Series games than any other school. Arizona State is well familiar with the CWS, as well, and has five national titles of its own.
Texas lost its opening game to Kent State in the first regional round last weekend, and it looked like the Longhorns’ season might be nearing an abrupt end. But the Horns rebounded to win three straight after that loss, including two wins over Kent State, to advance to this weekend’s Super Regional.
Asked about the Longhorns’ quest for a seventh national championship, senior first-baseman Tant Shepherd told the Austin American Statesman, "I’ve been on a team that made it to Omaha and one that didn’t. The 2005 team came out of the loser’s bracket in the regionals and ended up winning it all, so we knew it had been done before. Sometimes it takes a loss to bring out the best in a team. That’s what happened to us."
Texas A&M (45-19) will have to get its business done away from College Station in a weekend matchup in Tallahassee, Fla., where the Florida State Seminoles (45-17), the national fifth seed, await. For A&M, it will be their fifth trip to the Super Regional round of 16. The Aggies previously advanced that far in the NCAA Championship in 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2008.
The series between the Aggies and Seminoles gets under way on Saturday afternoon., with follow-up games scheduled for Sunday afternoon and Monday, if necessary.
The Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference both have four teams still alive in the NCAA Baseball Championship. Arizona State, Sanford, California and Oregon State represent the Pac-12; SEC schools participating in the Super Regionals are South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. In addition, there are three schools from the Atlantic Coast Conference still in the tournament: North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State.
Since the Big 12 was formed in 1996, 23 conference teams have advanced to the Super Regionals in baseball. Texas has made the most appearances (8), followed by Texas A&M (5), Baylor (3), Nebraska (3), Oklahoma and Oklahoma (2 each).
The NCAA baseball Super Regional round features 16 teams in a best two-of-three format. The winners of each Super Regional series move on to play in the College World Series.
2011 NCAA Championship Super Regional Sites & Teams
Austin, Texas – Texas vs. Arizona State
Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida State vs. Texas A&M
Chapel Hill, N.C. – North Carolina vs. Stanford
Charlottesville, Va. – Virginia vs. UC Irvine
Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina vs. Connecticut
Gainesville, Fla. – Florida vs. Mississippi State
Nashville, Tenn. – Vanderbilt vs. Oregon State
Santa Clara, Calif – California vs. Dallas Baptist