National Championship moments: 2002 Baseball
Prior to the start of the 2002 season, head coach Augie Garrido hung a list of goals for the upcoming year on the wall of the Longhorns' locker room. The list read as follows:
· Win the game
While some of these goals may have seemed lofty at the start, the list revealed a process of development and a perspective to maintain throughout the course of a college baseball season. With their focus now set, the Longhorns proceeded to open the 2002 campaign by charging out to a 13-2 overall record, but quickly incurred a setback by beginning conference play with a 2-4 mark. Ever resilient in their quest for Texas' first-ever Big 12 title, the Horns rebounded by winning 13 of their next 15 conference tilts and following a 5-1 victory over A&M on May 17, they swept a three-game set from the Aggies, finish the Big 12 season with a 19-8 record and claimed their first conference crown since 1996.
UT now made its way to the conference tournament, which was being held for the first time at The Ballpark in Arlington, as the league's No. 1 seed. Despite being the conference champion, Texas dropped an 8-4 decision to Texas A&M in its tourney opener and had its back against the wall in the double-elimination bracket. With the odds heavily against them, the Horns proved their mettle once again by posting consecutive wins over Oklahoma State and A&M as well as a doubleheader sweep of Oklahoma to reach the title game against Nebraska. Tied 6-6 with the Huskers heading into the top of the ninth inning of the tournament's final game, the Horns plated three runs en route to a 9-6 win and their first-ever Big 12 Tournament Championship. During its league tournament run, UT set team tourney records for home runs (10) and pitcher strikeouts (47).
With two titles in hand, the Longhorns were set to host their first NCAA Regional Tournament since 1996 and made quick work of the four-team field by claiming a 7-2 victory over Central Connecticut State in their opener and notching consecutive triumphs over conference foe Baylor to advance to the NCAA Super Regional round.
Now paired against in-state rival Houston in a best-of-three series at Disch-Falk Field for the right to move on to the College World Series (CWS), Texas again had to fight from behind as UH stunned the opening-game crowd of 7,209 with a 2-0 victory over the home team. Never doubting their ability to come back, the Horns responded in game two with a resounding 17-2 win over the Cougars to even the series at 1-1 and set up a winner-take-all finale. Behind a solid offensive as well as defensive performance, UT earned a 5-2 win over Houston on June 9 to win the super regional title and earn its NCAA-record 29th CWS appearance.
Matched opposite Rice, who they had defeated twice during the season, in the CWS bracket, the Longhorns laid a lot of questions to rest with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Owls that not only gave UT its first CWS win since 1993, but claimed the first-ever CWS victory for a Big 12 Conference school. Texas drew Stanford in the winner's bracket and pulled off an 8-7 triumph over the Cardinal on June 17 to need only one more win in order to play for the 2002 National Championship.
After the Cardinal survived their ensuing elimination game, a rematch between the Horns and the CWS runner-up in each of the past two seasons was set. Although Stanford was the team to jump out early in this matchup, Texas again fought its way back and snapped a 5-5 tie in the top of the seventh with a solo home run from junior Dustin Majewski en route to its third one-run victory of the CWS and its first berth in the National Championship Game since 1989.
Facing South Carolina in the title game on June 22 (a rematch of the 1975 national title game that UT won 5-1), Texas sent All-America left-hander Justin Simmons to the mound looking for the school's fifth National Championship. After the Gamecocks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Horns jumped in front by a score of 4-2 at the end of two full frames before establishing a 7-2 advantage after a three-run home run from senior Chris Carmichael in the fifth. South Carolina pulled within 8-6 by scoring two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, UT answered with four more runs in the bottom of the eighth and freshman Huston Street recorded the final five outs to close out the 12-6 win and give Texas its first national title since 1983 after posting a 57-15 overall record.
Street earned the CWS Most Oustanding Player Award after posting a CWS-record four saves. Simmons, Majewski and sophomores Tim Moss and Omar Quintanilla were named to the CWS All-Tournament Team. A school-record 11 Longhorns garnered All-Big 12 accolades and three others picked up All-America recognition. Texas was led by more than just a few select individuals. The 2002 Longhorns were a club that won on teamwork and unselfishness as each player on its roster came through with big plays and clutch performances to help UT win each of the five championships that it set out to claim at the beginning of the year.