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Winner Take All? Texas Has The CWS Momentum To Beat Bulldogs

Texas has the momentum and remains one game away from returning to the College World Series final.

A winner take all matchup for the College World Series finale? Ok cool, Hook’Em. 

Now comes the hard part. 

With an 8-5 win over No. 7 Mississippi State, the Longhorns (50-17) remain one game away from reaching the College World Series finale. Nearly a week after going down 0-1 to the Bulldogs (47-17), they have the opportunity to repay the favor and send them back to Starkville. 

The difference from Sunday to now? Perhaps it's Texas with the momentum in the driver's seat. 

"We keep talking about living for the next game and having an opportunity," Texas coach David Pierce said. "And, so, that's what we have now."

The Longhorns are for real. They're young and far from reaching their full potential, but this is not a team that will let youth define their season. 

Texas is built tough. They're built for big moments. Best of all, they're built to win. 

Ivan Melendez proved that when he entered the batter's box in a tie game with two runners on. 

READ MORE: Texas' Melendez Lives Childhood Dream, Keeps Longhorns Alive In College World Series

A 3-2 fastball was drilled over the left center field wall for a three-run home run. 

Texas was back. So was the drive that led them to a 5-0 start in the NCAA tournament. 

"We just need to keep this momentum. I like our lineup right now," Melendez said. "We've been having changes top to bottom moving people all over. But 1 through 9, we'll compete and battle every pitch." 

Texas wants a battle? They're getting one Saturday evening. 

Strike that, they're getting two — one early, one late. 

Will Bednar is expected to start for Mississippi State on five days rest. Landon Sims will likely be the next in line to pitch. Combined in Game 1, the duo struck out 21 Longhorns for a College World Series record. 

READ MORE: How Zach Zubia's Swing Kept Texas' College World Series Hopes Alive And Well

Bednar, a projected first-round pick in next month's MLB Draft, set a Starkville-Omaha record alone with 15. 

"I think they held back their two best arms," Pierce said. "I think we'll see two guys tomorrow, period."

The plan is simple for the Bulldogs: Bendar will blank the bats, Sims will shut down the rest. Melendez, whose four big hits propelled Texas to back-to-back wins, now is confident in his swing against the pitcher who sent him packing twice.  

"I'm pretty confident, once I face a pitcher once, I'm not really second-guessing myself just because I've seen it and go from there," Melendez said. "You've got to battle every pitch. It comes down to that at the end of the day."

The Horns bullpen will be loose thanks to Tanner Witt and Aaron Nixon. Witt threw a season-high 58 pitches in 5 2/3 innings to take down No. 3 Tennessee. Things didn't go his way Saturday, but the damage was minimal in the end. 

Two hours and 26 minutes following a walk to Mitch Daly play resumed. Nixon allowed a runner to reach third base, but a grounder to Trey Faltine stopped MSU's Scotty Dubrule from driving in a run. 

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Nixon threw 34 pitches to record the final five outs. Barring a ninth-inning "last hurrah" moment, expect him to be unavailable. 

The good news for Texas? Cole Quintanilla should be ready to go. As should Lucas Gordon, Kolby Kubicheck, Palmer Wentzel, and Jeremy Southard, each of whom are still looking for their first pitch in Omaha. 

As Pierce puts it, "we're in June, now," meaning all hands on deck. 

Anything can happen when entering TD Ameritrade Park. In 48 hours, so much changed from what fans expected to what they got. 

Texas came from behind twice to advance to yet another elimination game. To do so, they waited nearly six hours for the weather to cooperate. 

At least they'll have one more shot to prove they have what it takes, unlike North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack entered Friday with just 13 players available due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Vanderbilt picked up the win to force another game Saturday afternoon. 

When play resumed around 1:00 a.m., the NCAA announced NC State would be ineligible to continue play. The Commodores move on to Monday's game as the Wolfpack players took the field one last time for a photo of what they accomplished. 

What could have been with nine more innings, huh?

Bednar will be the storyline, but Tristan Stevens will be ready to go. So will the Horns' bullpen outside of Witt. Zach Zubia is in stride, as is Melendez, two of the best bats in the lineup. 

READ MORE: Texas' Melendez Mashes Home Run Late, Secures CWS Win Over Bulldogs

Speed is everywhere in the outfield and defense is on point. 

After the 2-1 loss Sunday, fans wondered if Texas had enough in the tank to win it all. That was answered Tuesday, Thursday, and twice on Friday.

“We're not going away,” Pierce said Friday morning. “I mean, this team is just resilient. 

"They're going to play until the end.”

Nine innings will decide that if the tank is still going or if the engine will stall mere feet from the finish line. 

Anything can happen in Omaha, including Texas winning four elimination games to make it back to the finals for the first time since 2009. 

CONTINUE READING: Way-Too-Early Predictions: Texas VS Texas Tech

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