Hi 96 / Lo 74
|Volume 70, Issue 147,
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Big 12 looks strong at 2005 CWS
Off the Wall
When the smoke cleared from the NCAA Super Regionals around the country, powerful Tulane was still standing, defending champion Cal State-Fullerton took an early exit, and the pesky Texas Longhorns became the only team from last year's final eight to return to Omaha to battle in the 2005 College World Series.
Nebraska (56-13) became the first team to qualify for Omaha by belting three home runs in its 6-3 victory against the Miami Hurricanes to take two straight games in its regional series.
As for the other Big 12 squads, the Longhorns' 6-4 victory against Mississippi in the rubber match earned Texas (51-16) its NCAA-record 32nd College World Series appearance. Meanwhile, Baylor's 6-1 victory in its Game 3 against Clemson sent the Bears (44-22) into the College World Series for the first time since 1978.
Tulane (55-10) whitewashed Rice 9-6 in the third game of its regional final to forge ahead on their quest to become the first school from C-USA to win a national championship.
Oregon State (46-10) and Arizona State (39-23, the resident long shot) elbowed their way into the ranks of the final eight with victories against USC and Cal State-Fullerton, respectively.
Tennessee (46-19) and Florida (45-20) round out the final eight and will open the tournament against each other at 1 p.m. Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The powerful Big 12 leads all conferences with three teams among the final eight. The Pacific 10 and the Southeastern Conference each boast two squads while tournament favorite Tulane hails from Conference USA.
So who's the favorite heading in? Many like Tulane, but logic says that great pitching wins a short series. In spite of a third place finish behind Nebraska and Baylor in conference play, the Longhorns have closer J. Brent Cox, the first recipient of the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association Stopper of the Year award, which honors the top relief pitcher in college baseball.
Even though the Longhorns are in familiar climes, the Bears are my dark horse pick to win the tournament if Tulane stumbles. When Baylor puts it all together on the field they play better baseball than any team in the tournament, including favored Tulane.
The Bears speed and savvy in the field and on the bases will serve them well in the College World Series format. The Bears finished second in the Big 12 without any outstanding players like the star-studded lineups fielded by Texas and Nebraska.
Teams win baseball championships, not individuals.
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