National Championship moments: 1983 Baseball
Some seasons are called “storybook” in the clichés of sports, and some are just beyond that. For Texas Baseball, the 1983 season still ranks in another category.
The Longhorns won their fourth national championship – their second under head coach Cliff Gustafson- in five straight games in Omaha. The championship season, however, was one where UT kept dodging bullets on the way to the throne.
Texas faced elimination in the six-team regional, and then had to come from behind to win in four of its five College World Series games.
It was, in fact, Gustafson’s “ragtag” army … a team that won hearts as well as games. Texas finished 66-14, playing and winning more games than any team in school history.
The Longhorns did it with the traditional Gustafson mainstays: great pitching and defense. Texas led the nation in pitching and defense. Texas led the nation in pitching with a 2.72 staff ERA and finished fourth in team fielding with a .966 percentage.
Texas claimed its 56th Southwest Conference championship with an 18-3 record, seizing the title in the next-to-last league series of the year.
In big moments, Texas was superb, but at other times it was not. That was the interesting enigma that was the 1983 team; it could lose a doubleheader to an unknown non-conference foe and then sweep a series against impressive opponents like Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State.
The club faced elimination after two games into the six-team regional in Austin, but bounced back to beat Tulane, Pan American and Mississippi State twice to advance to Omaha.
In Omaha, Texas defeated James Madison in the opener and came from behind to defeat Oklahoma State, Alabama and Michigan before scoring a 4-3 championship victory over Alabama.
By winning the College World Series in five straight games, the Longhorns became only the 10th team in NCAA baseball history to go through the Series unbeaten.
Its heroes were many and varied. First baseman Jose Tolentino hit .339, smashed 12 home runs, collected 100 hits and drove in 73 runs. Designated hitter Doug Hodo hit .345 in a platoon role with Kirk Killingworth. Catcher Jeff Hearron hit .341 with six home runs and 48 RBI. Mike Brumley and Bill Bates manned the infield with Brumley hitting .298 with 82 runs and 56 RBI as a shortstop and Bates batting .296 with 13 doubles and 69 runs as a second baseman. In the team’s 66 wins, 16 different players delivered game-winning blows.
The talent on the mound was equally impressive. Pitcher Calvin Schiraldi was named All-American after posting a 14-2 record, and he and teammates Roger Clemens (13-5) and Mike Capel (13-1) all ranked in the nation’s top 10 in victories. Killingsworth appeared in 30 games, including 25 as a reliever and had a 12-3 record and seven saves.
The season featured four different win streaks of eight or more games, including a season high 12-game win streak from Apr. 2-23 and the season-ending nine-game streak that clinched the national title.