Texas baseball Super Regional preview: Longhorns look to upset the Cardinal

Evan Vieth, Associate Sports Editor

After a successful showing in the Miami regional, the Longhorns head out to California to take on the powerhouse that is the Stanford Cardinal.

Texas won all three of their games in Miami, taking two from the hosting Hurricanes, capped off by a Jalin Flores home run in a 10-6 victory. The Longhorns’ bats were hot to end it, but the pitching staff stole the show. Starters Lucas Gordon and Lebarron Johnson Jr. combined for 16 innings pitched with just two earned runs in the first two games of the weekend. Johnson Jr. threw a complete game to defeat Miami in the first of two games, and with a full week’s rest, the flame-throwing sophomore will be back in action on Sunday.

The Cardinal had a much more difficult regional tournament on the other side of the diamond. Stanford played five games, three of which were against the top 25-ranked Texas A&M team. The Aggies bested Stanford in their first matchup 5-8, but the Cardinal came back strong. After defeating Cal State Fullerton 6-5, the Cardinal outscored Texas A&M 20-6 in their final two games, destroying the Aggies and confirming their spot as the Super Regional host.

The name to look out for on the Cardinal roster is senior lefty Quinn Mathews. The 2023 draft prospect was dealing all postseason, but his performance in the Monday elimination game was one to remember. After throwing seven innings three days earlier, Mathews entered the A&M game in the fifth inning with the game tied at one. While Stanford added six runs on the A&M pitching staff, Mathews shut the door on the Aggie season. The lefty gave up no runs on five hits in four innings, all while watching his team expand the lead to six runs. By the ninth inning, when he was taken out for pitch count concerns, the Aggies were too demoralized to even put up a fight.

Stanford is far from a one-player team, however, as the Cardinal won many awards in the regular season, including four individual awards. Seven Cardinal players made the all-conference team; additionally, catcher and outfielder Alberto Rios won Player of the Year, Mathews won Pitcher of the Year, catcher Malcolm Moore won Freshman of the Year and third baseman Tommy Troy was the batting champion. Rios and Troy each boast an OPS over 1.200, alongside 35 home runs and 128 RBI. Moore hit a two-run home run to give Stanford a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning of the final A&M game.

The Stanford offense ranked ninth nationwide in batting average (third amongst power five schools) and 11th in overall scoring, with Troy’s batting average ranked 13th nationwide. It’s safe to say the Cardinal are one of the best remaining offenses in the country.

The Cardinal’s weak point comes from the pitching staff. While Texas ranks 10th in the nation in ERA, Stanford stands at a measly 135th with a 5.83 ERA. Texas Southern, who ranks four spots ahead of them, gave up 18 runs to the Longhorns earlier in the season. Mathews is undoubtedly a fantastic starter, but after him, there’s not a single Cardinal pitcher with an ERA  under 4.64. In conference play, starters Joey Dixon and Matt Scott each boasted an ERA over five, an abysmal number compared to Gordon and Johnson, who posted a 3.00 and 2.08 ERA in conference play, respectively. In games where Mathews didn’t pitch, starting pitchers allowed 13 runs in just 9.2 innings pitched. The Longhorn’s biggest advantage going in seems to be the strength of the rotation.

The Texas offense starts with junior right fielder Dylan Campbell. Having one of the best all-around seasons in recent Longhorn memory, Campbell is batting .345 with 13 home runs, 25 stolen bases and gold glove-level defense in the outfield. Though the Longhorns lack the power that the Cardinal do, they make up for it with speed on the basepaths and defense in the outfield. Eric Kennedy and Porter Brown, the other two outfielders, add another 18 stolen bases, and between the three, have committed just two errors all year. 

The Super Regional will start on Saturday, June 10, at 3 p.m., with Lucas Gordon taking the hill for the Longhorns. Additionally, Mathews will be starting the second game against Johnson, meaning he has no chance of showing up in relief in the series. With the season on the line and a chance at Omaha, it’s time to see if the Longhorns can recreate the success of last year’s East Carolina Super Regional victory.