OMAHA—Augie Garrido finished second at the 1992 College World Series with a Cal State Fullerton team led by future big leaguer Phil Nevin.
"I know this: That 1992 team with Nevin and those guys that finished second, more of them have gone on to different professions—real estate, banking, dentistry," Garrido said. "They have a higher level of success rate in life than teams that won. I honestly believe it’s because they never want to finish second in anything again. I have that experience—I know that to be true."
Garrido’s 2004 Texas team also finished as the national runner-up, and the Longhorns returned to Omaha in 2005 and won the CWS. Texas did not even win a regional the next three years before getting back to Omaha and pushing Louisiana State to the third game of the CWS Finals in 2009. Even though the Longhorns fell short of a national title, there is reason to believe they could follow the example of the ’05 team next year.
Texas will lose just two drafted players—closer Austin Wood and first baseman Brandon Belt—off this year’s club. The Longhorns’ rotation of rising juniors Chance Ruffin, Cole Green and Brandon Workman and rising sophomore Tyler Jungmann—who was the best pitcher in the CWS, as evidenced by his complete-game win over LSU in the CWS Finals’ second game—should be the best in the nation. Texas also should get its biggest bats back in juniors Kevin Keyes, an outfielder; Cameron Rupp, a catcher/outfielder; and DH Russell Moldenhauer, who hit four homers in Omaha after going homerless during an injury-plagued season.
"I honestly believe this is the beginning of a new era for Texas baseball in Omaha," Garrido said. "There’s a lot of very disappointed people, but the first team I ever brought to Omaha was Cal State Fullerton—the first time at the World Series, two and out. The first team I brought from Texas to Omaha—two and out. We didn’t have a player with College World Series experience on this team, and we finished second in Omaha—pretty cool. (It was) the best team I’ve ever brought to Omaha without any experience, and the best finish, ever."
Despite its youth and inexperience, Texas put together a remarkable season that will be remembered fondly in Austin, even without a championship at the end of the road. The Longhorns won the Big 12′s regular-season and tournament titles, losing just two weekend series all season. They survived the longest game in NCAA history—25 epic innings—in regionals against Boston College, then overcame a four-run ninth-inning deficit to beat Army on a walk-off grand slam in the regional clincher. Texas won a tough three-game super regional against Texas Christian, and the ‘Horns reached the CWS Finals with three dramatic wins—on a walk-off walk against Southern Mississippi, a comeback from a 6-0 deficit against Arizona State and a walk-off homer against ASU.
"It’s been amazing," fifth-year senior Preston Clark said. "Every guy’s pulled for each other. It’s been the best team we’ve been apart of. Everybody pulls for one another. It was a great run.
"(LSU) played unbelievable ball today; they punched us in the mouth—Coach Garrido told us that would happen. We punched back, but they punched back harder and we couldn’t get another rally going."
Garrido did confess some regret over the way his pitching moves played out in the fateful sixth inning, when LSU broke a 4-4 tie with five runs. Reliever Brandon Workman had retired nine straight heading into the inning, but Jared Mitchell walked to start the sixth and Mikie Mahtook doubled him home. Rather than give Workman a chance to get out of the inning, Garrido went to relievers Austin Dicharry and Austin Wood, and the move backfired as both struggled with their control.
"That was the decision we made; in hindsight it doesn’t look so good," Garrido said. "We made the same kind of decision the other night (in the ninth inning of Game One of the Finals) and it didn’t work out. When those decisions don’t work out, they can be scrutinized, they can be quesitioned of course. That’s why I don’t like to take the credit for anything the players do, and I’m not going to take the blame. We played our cards, we thought they were the right ones, it didn’t work out. To me it’s credit to the opponent. They are the best team we played by far."
Mainieri Family Ends Drought
LSU coach Paul Mainieri had to admit that his thoughts drifted to his family as his team recorded the final three outs of the CWS Finals clincher. After accepting the national championship trophy and addressing the LSU fans in the stands, Mainieri found his mother, Rosetta, and father, Demie, near first base and wrapped them in a simultaneous embrace.
Paul was just 6 years old when Demie won the 1964 junior college national championship as the coach of Miami Dade-North CC. On Wednesday, Demie got to watch his son celebrate his own title.
"The Mainieri family has been 45 years without a championship," Paul said. "I thought it was about time for that to end."
Standing on the field moments after the game ended, Demie took in the chaos of the victory celebration with a serene smile.
"It’s even greater than when I won it for myself," Demie said, "because it was so much more difficult, to be honest with you. It was a very pressurized situation playing in the Southeastern Conference, but that’s what Paul thrives on."
Paul Mainieri said he dreamt of winning a national championship his whole life, and his father corroborated that story.
"Paul has had his sights on winning a national championship—I think it goes back to 1964 when he was a little kid and said, ‘I’m not going to be satsified until i win a national championship,’" Demie Mainieri said. "And he went out and did it."
• Though attendance was down for the winner-take-all Game Three of the CWS Finals (19,986, the fourth-lowest attendance of the 15 CWS games in 2009), the overall attendance of 336,076 set a CWS record. Of course, last year’s overall attendance set a record also, but that was because the NCAA changed the way attendance was measured. On average, attendance was down last year, as just 20,631 fans per game showed up. That number rebounded to 22,405 in 2009. The record for average attendance is 23,952, set in 2005.
• LSU led the CWS all-tournament team with four members, while Texas landed three players on the team. The complete team: catcher Cameron Rupp (Texas), first baseman Dustin Ackley (North Carolina), second baseman D.J. LeMahieu (LSU), third baseman Kyle Seager (UNC), shortstop Tyler Cannon (Virginia), outfielder Kole Calhoun (Arizona State), outfielders Jared Mitchell and Ryan Schimpf (LSU), DH Russell Moldenhauer (Texas), pitcher Anthony Ranaudo (LSU) and pitcher Taylor Jungmann (Texas). Mitchell was named Most Outstanding Player.
• LSU has reached the championship round of the CWS six times in its history and has won the national title all six times. The Tigers finished this season with 56 wins—the most by a national champion since Texas in 2005. They posted a .991 fielding percentage in Omaha, the second-highest ever for a national champion behind only the .993 mark they posted in 1991.
• Texas hit just 39 home runs in 61 games during the regular season, but the Longhorns exploded for 14 homers in six games in Omaha, the third-most homers by any team at the CWS ever. LSU and Texas combined to hit 27 homers in Omaha, a record for the two teams playing for the championship. The 12 combined homers in the Finals is also a record, breaking last year’s record of nine.
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