H-Town Sports

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Back Home in Omaha? The Day the Music Died...

As a result of the early exit of the Texas Longhorns at the Austin Regional this past weekend, do I have to give back my "University of Texas at Omaha" t-shirt?

I am still in shock. I cannot believe that when the College World Series begins on June 16th that the Texas Longhorns will not be in attendance. This year when I hear ESPN play the "Back Home in Omaha" anthem, how will I be able to hold back the tears? I haven't felt been this affected by a loss since Texas Tech beat the Longhorns in the 2002 shoot-out.

It's one thing to lose when your team is overwhelmed by the athleticism and the skills of its opponents. It's an entirely different thing when an extremely talented, but erratic team stumbles well short of its goals for reasons that are more mental than anything else. Augie Garrido has observed that baseball is the cruelest sport and I am inclined to agree with the Longhorn Skipper.

In the wake of the early departure, observers have suggested that the 2006 Longhorns simply fell victim to the unreliable fielding and the weak bullpen that characterized the early 5-6 start to the season during which the Burnt Orange dropped series to both the San Diego Toreros and Stanford Cardinals. Of course, it didn't help that at the Austin Regional, the Longhorns received an outing from Kyle McCulloch against the evil Christmas Trees of Stanford that fans were not accustomed to or that Adrian Alaniz couldn't keep his stuff together in the start of the seventh inning against the Wolfpack of North Carolina State.

Maybe, the Longhorn faithful should have been more worried when Missouri swept Texas at the end of the regular season. At the time, conventional wisdom was that the Horns didn't need to win the series and that the games meant more to the Missouri Tigers and their postseason prospects. However, the Longhorns did need to win to reach the magical 40-win mark prior to the Big 12 Tournament and to ensure a national Top Eight seed to host both the Regional and Super Regional rounds. It was far from certain that if the Longhorns had performed poorly at the Big 12 Tournament, the Seeding Committee would have clearly placed the Longhorns among those Top Eight seeds.

Perhaps, the real issue was simply leadership. Coach Tommy Harmon acknowledged that this year's Longhorn team lacked the fiery leaders that characterized prior Longhorn squads. The team simply did not have the vocal leadership that Huston Street, Dustin Majewski, J. Brent Cox, Jeff "I Love Krispy Kreme" Ontiveros, Beau Hale and others offered in the prior runs to Omaha. The lack of leadership may have explained the up and down performance of the team and uncharacteristic apathy of the Missouri series. The personalities in this year's locker-room simply did not have replacements for the leadership that left last year's national championship team.

Longhorn faithful should remain hopeful for next year. The team will return a great deal of talent and may not have been seriously hurt by the Major League Baseball draft. Augie Garrido will no doubt use the shock and disappointment of this year to motivate next year's Longhorn squad and to remind them that a trip to Omaha, despite what Longhorn fans believe, is not a Burnt Orange birthright and must be earned. As such, I think I may just hold on to my "University of Texas at Omaha" shirt for at least one more year...


Blogger Tim said...

Nice post. H-Town Sports' collegiate baseball coverage begins with a flourish!

Fri Jun 09, 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Very nice and a welcome addition to H-Town Sports. Now someone explain to me how that hottie Cat Osterman could possibly not win the national championship...

Fri Jun 09, 09:21:00 AM  

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