Texas is in early control — and already sizing a trip to Omaha for the College World Series. In other words, the University of Houston has the Longhorns right where they want them.
The Comeback Coogs need to pull off another daunting escape against college baseball royalty. Houston's down 1-0 in its best of three Super Regionals series with the University of Texas after a 4-2 loss in Game One. Todd Whitting's team faces elimination Saturday afternoon in Austin.
Fortunately for Whitting, his guys specialize in this sort of thing.
UH quickly fell into the loser's bracket in the Regionals last weekend, only to roar back and win three straight elimination games — including two against LSU on its imposing home field. Now, Houston must do it again against another traditional college baseball superpower.
Now Houston's backed to the edge of another cliff. UH must win two straight elimination games against one of college baseball's all-time premiere programs.
Texas (42-19) can almost taste its first College World Series berth since 2011, an eternity for a program with an NCAA record 34 World Series berths. With its huge, controversial NCAA-granted advantage of playing this Super Regional matchup at Disch-Falk Field, its vast home stadium that swallows up home runs, the Longhorns are in a better than great position.
They just have to squash Whitting's never-say-die guys. Of course, as LSU found, that's easier said than done.
Still, Houston finds offense hard to come by in Friday's Game One. The Cougars (48-17) hit into seven double plays and find themselves depending on a pinch hitter with a .048 batting average with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Jacob Campbell promptly flies out to left field to end the game.
Now, it's do or die time. Again.
Aaron Garza, the 6-foot-4 junior right hander with the 2.67 ERA, will get the ball for Houston with the season on the lineup in a 1 p.m. ESPN Saturday showcase. And the Cougars will need to get him some runs. Outside of second baseman Josh Vidales — who goes 3-for-3 out of the seventh hole —that's in short supply in the Super Regional opener.
Even Houston's two-run fifth inning could have been much more — with two one and nobody out before yet another double play.
Put in the weird position of playing in its home stadium as the official "visitors" — which meant sitting in the visiting dugout and wearing their road gray uniforms — the Longhorns jump out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Center fielder Mark Payton supplies the advantage with some surprising power.
Payton hit one home run in Texas' 60 games before this Super Regional. But in the first inning, he gets number two.
Texas ups the lead to 4-0 before UH scores two in the bottom of the fifth. Still, it's hard for the Cougars to get much going against Nathan Thornhill — who came in with a 0.40 ERA in his last four starts.
Now Houston's backed to the edge of another cliff. UH must win two straight elimination games against one of college baseball's all-time premiere programs to keep its dream alive of making the school's first College World Series since 1967.
Did you really expect the script to work out any other way?