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Christian Corona | The Associated Press | June 5, 2014

Texas back to old self

Mark Payton was named co-most outstanding player of the Houston Regional. Texas center fielder Mark Payton was named co-most outstanding player of the Houston Regional.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas head coach Augie Garrido knew the past two years weren't good enough.

Garrido, the all-time winningest coach in Division I baseball history, failed to lead the Longhorns to the NCAA tournament in each of the two seasons since Texas made its record 34th trip to the College World Series in 2011.

''It isn't acceptable and we know that,'' Garrido said in February. ''The same standards that are acceptable put us in the College World Series and competing for the national championship. Until those standards are met, it's a substandard performance and we don't intend to be a part of that.''

True to his word, Garrido turned things around and helped Texas (41-19) advance within two wins of returning to Omaha, Nebraska, after Chad Hollingsworth's complete-game, 128-pitch gem in Monday's 4-1 win against Texas A&M in the Houston Regional. Those victories will have to come against Houston (48-16) when it plays host to a best-of-three Super Regional in Austin, beginning Friday.

The Cougars, who have not been to the College World Series since 1967, climbed out of the losers' bracket in the Baton Rouge Regional, beating No. 4 national seed LSU twice to advance. They fell to Texas, 3-2, in March.

''We tried from Day 1 at fall practice [to tell the team] that the game is nine innings, the season's long. You just keep grinding away and see what happens,'' Houston head coach Todd Whitting said after the clinching 12-2 win against LSU. ''You just try to go 1-0 every single day. This team to the nth degree has really done that.''

Friday will mark the 126th meeting between Texas and Houston, Southwest Conference members together for two decades before the league broke up in 1996. The Longhorns and Cougars have played 23 times since then, with only seven of those meetings coming in the past 12 years.

Five things to watch:

1. PITCHING PROWESS: The Austin Super Regional features two of the best pitching staffs in the country, with Houston boasting the sixth-lowest team ERA at 2.30 and Texas coming into the series with a 2.36 team ERA, the eighth lowest in the country.

2. SCHOOL RECORD IN JEOPARDY: Houston's 48 victories this season are tied for a school record. The Cougars also won 48 games in 2000 and '02. In both of those years, Houston's season ended in the Super Regionals, falling to San Jose State in 2000 and to Texas in '02.

3. FAMILIAR FOES: Texas leads the all-time series against Houston 92-31-2. The Longhorns are 43-10 against the Cougars at home, including a three-game 2002 Super Regional victory en route to its fifth national championship and first under Garrido.

4. PAYTON'S STREAK: Longhorns senior center fielder Mark Payton has reached base in 99 consecutive games, a Big 12 record. He is batting .318 with a .460 on-base percentage and a team-best 53 walks this year.

5. BIG 12: Texas is one of four Big 12 teams to not only reach the Super Regionals, but also host its respective series. Houston and Texas are two of four teams from the Lone Star State to advance to the Super Regionals this season, along with TCU and Texas Tech.

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