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Mike Lopresti | NCAA.com | June 17, 2018

7 things to know about Texas baseball before the CWS

OMAHA, Neb. – Behold, the long orange line. That’s the endless parade of Texas Longhorn teams to the College World Series, and college baseball has never seen anything like it.

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Now that we’re on the eve of another hook-‘em-horns sighting in Omaha — Texas meets Arkansas Sunday — we can stand back and appreciate how astonishing it has been.

Texas baseball is . . .

Seventy-two College World Series, and the Longhorns in 36 of them, or fully half. The only three sure things in life have been death, taxes and Texas in Omaha — if not today, certainly tomorrow. Miami is a distant second at 25. Texas has won 85 CWS games. USC is second at 74 (though the Trojans lead big in national titles, 12-6).

Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation might appreciate all that. The Wildcats have been to 37 Elite Eights.

Texas baseball is . . .

Beard-less players and busy razors, because that’s the way it’s been done in Austin. “Our guys know when they come to the University of Texas, they understand the history, they understand the traditions,” coach David Pierce was saying Friday. “They continue to admire it and they continue to want to be a part of that, even to the point of no facial hair.

“They understand it and they embrace it.”

Texas baseball is . . .

When the Longhorns made their first CWS appearance in 1949, Harry Truman was president of the United States.

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Texas has made at least one trip to Omaha during the administrations of all 12 presidents since.

Texas baseball is . . .

The glory splashing across generations. Kody Clemens is this team’s most dangerous hitter, just like father Roger used to mow down hitters. James Street showed up on campus as the seventh string quarterback, and not only passed the Longhorns to the 1969 national championship, but was a two-time All-American pitcher and still owns the ninth best season ERA in school history. One spot above him in eighth is son Huston, who did it 34 years later, and would one day end up in the major league All-Star Game.

Texas baseball is  . . .

Nearly as close to the collective heart in that state as Texas football. And sometimes they intersect.

The Longhorn pitcher who holds the school record for most conference victories? NFL legend Bobby Layne.

Texas baseball is . . .

Nearly three pages of the record book needed to list all the all-conference selections.

Texas baseball is . . .

Only four head coaches since the College World Series was born in 1947. And all four have brought teams to Omaha.  The giant of the game who did it eight times – Augie Garrido – died of a stroke in March. The day he passed away, the Longhorns were scuffling along at 9-9. They’re 32-11 since, won the Big 12, the regional, the super regional. Their first game after he died, they had 16 hits in routing Kansas. The same number as Garrido’s jersey.

No wonder even the other coaches here this week have noticed. “I think he’s still right there in the background right now, watching all of us,” Texas Tech coach said Tim Tadlock Friday.

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“It’s been like this since his passing,” Pierce said. “There’s too many signs to say he hasn’t been, and it’s been really special.”

Pierce got Texas here in his second season, so it looks like they’ll let him stay in Austin. Talk about your high bars. What can it be like to take a job where history shouts that you should average a trip to the College World Series once every two years? It ain’t that easy.

“I’ve never felt pressure from the University of Texas,” he said. “I’ve been very secure and very comfortable. I guess you could say confident, but it’s really about understanding and putting the work in day to day, that I have no regrets. I get more frustrated when I feel like we haven’t maximized a player; for whatever reason, we didn’t get through to him. I feel more pressure with that individual player than I’ve ever felt for winning or losing a game.”

Still, he knows what is expected in Austin. And it’s not regionals.

“What it does is create an anticipation, it creates an expectation. You go into the fall and you truly feel like you’re going to Omaha. And when the season starts, the journey begins, that’s what it does to you. That’s why I’m excited that we’re in year two, and now we’re already creating that culture of we’re going to Omaha.”

He’s a native Texan who was here three times last decade as an assistant with Rice. Then he put in successful head coaching stints at Sam Houston State and Tulane, and got a call from Texas when Garrido retired in 2016. That was after the school courted a good many high-profile head coaches, who ended up staying with new and better deals at their current schools.

“Augie did a great job of getting a lot of coaches raises,” Pierce said. “I honestly think I got the job because I have a proven track record to win. It’s not I, it’s we, and what we have done on other stages. I truly believe that I was the right fit, for the simple fact I understand the state of Texas and I understand the tradition and the history of the University of Texas.”

Maybe the masses weren’t sure at the beginning. A guy from Tulane with five seasons experience as a college head coach? But now the Longhorns are in Omaha.

And that’s Texas baseball.