AUSTIN, Texas -- “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” Texas head coach Augie Garrido asked, moments after Texas earned its berth in the College World Series. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner.”
In left field at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, just feet behind the foul pole, a banner lists the years of all six of Texas’ national championships. Just next to the plaque that reads “2005,” there are plaques with the Longhorn logo, just waiting for more years and more titles to be tacked on.
At the base of the wall is the visitors’ bullpen, reminding them with every toss they throw of the storied program they face. It glares in their face -- history is not on their side.History was not on Houston’s side.
The Cougars -- come-from-behind winners of two games at LSU in the Baton Rouge Regional last weekend -- couldn’t handle the Longhorns, falling twice in two days.
They’ll get on the bus heading south, back to Houston, instead of the one going north to Omaha.
The Longhorns will head to their record 35th College World Series. They also hold the wins record at the CWS with 82 victories. But they’re not finished. Those 82 are not enough for them and they’ll look to add to that total next week.
The Longhorns and the Cougars met 124 times heading into the weekend -- including in 2002 at the Austin Super Regional, where Texas earned the trip to the College World Series.
History repeated itself on Saturday, and the Battle for Texas again went to the boys in burnt orange, a 4-0 victory that sealed the Cougars’ postseason fate.
Texas, the team that finished 13-11 in the conference, is heading to Omaha.
Texas, the team that finished the season ranked 20th in the NCBWA poll, is heading to Omaha.
Texas, the team that didn’t even make the Big 12 tournament last year, is heading to Omaha.
Last year, Mark Payton decided last year to forgo playing professional baseball to stay in Austin for his senior year, with the hopes of making another trip to Omaha. His choice is paying off.
“Kids dream about going to Texas,” Payton said. “Giving up one year, you can’t take that back.”
“This is why we came to school here,” Texas pitcher Parker French said. “It’s good to get here, but we still have higher goals.”
“Baseball is the ultimate team sport,” Garrido said. “These guys are playing for each other. I keep telling you that, but now you can see it.”
Houston’s still leaving with its head held high.
“You’re talking about a program that, two years ago, won 18 games. We were so far away from being in this position right now,” Houston head coach Todd Whitting said. “It’s a great day for us, but also a sad day for us.”
As Houston’s Justin Montemayor flew out in the top of the ninth to end the game, the Longhorns didn’t dogpile. They weren’t celebrating. They simply, calmly went down the line, shook hands with each other and then with Houston, and sang the school fight song as the fans chanted, “O-mah-a! O-mah-a! O-mah-a!”
After talking about all the stops and detours for weeks, the Longhorns and their fans are ready to get on the literal #RoadToOmaha this week.
But the biggest challenge Garrido faces going forward? “Finding the best Italian restaurant in Omaha.”