Texas and LSU are two of college baseball's most successful programs, but their paths have rarely crossed in Omaha.
The Longhorns and Tigers will play each other for just the third time at the College World Series when the best-of-three championship series begins Monday night. It will be the teams' first meeting since 2000.
Texas beat LSU 12-7 in a 1989 bracket final, and LSU won 13-5 in a first-round game in 2000. Texas is 22-8-1 against LSU overall, dating to 1899.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Texas is the opponent he wanted to face in the finals. The Tigers are going for their sixth national title, while the Longhorns are trying their seventh. The teams have combined to play in 186 CWS games.
"It's two great programs with great history and great tradition," Mainieri said. "The current players are more concerned with the present-day situation, but for those of us who love college baseball, we know that LSU and Texas represent great things."
TRUE TEST: Texas will be playing in the finals for the third time and LSU for the first since the CWS format changed from a winner-take-all championship game to a best-of-three series in 2003.
"The best two-out-of-three tests each team," Mainieri said. "It tests our pitching depth, your consistency and how you bounce back from a loss or how you handle victory. A weekend series, two out of three, normally will determine which is the better team. I'm all for that."
Texas was swept by Cal State Fullerton in the 2004 finals before winning two straight games over Florida for the 2005 national championship.
Garrido's 2002 Texas team beat South Carolina in the last single-game final.
Garrido, 4-1 in single-game finals as coach at Cal State Fullerton and Texas, said the current format is a truer test, especially for pitching.
"We have three starters we are totally dependent on all year," he said. "If it's one game, only one of them gets to fulfill the role they had all year. From a player's point of view, it's healthier for all three of those pitchers to possibly get a start."
HIGH STAKES: Texas and LSU have long been premier programs, and neither wants to consider the possibility of losing in the finals.
"Finishing second will be just another disaster in a long line of disasters," Garrido said.
Added LSU catcher Micah Gibbs: "When you're at LSU, it's Omaha or bust. Once you get here, if you don't come back with a trophy, it's kind of tough to show your face."
NO. 1 VS. NO. 1: LSU is ranked No. 1 in the major polls, and Texas is the No. 1 national seed.
Garrido doesn't know if that's a good thing.
"We're the No. 1 seed, and the last time the No. 1 seed won here was in 1999," he said, referring to Miami.
Added Mainieri: "There's no reason to break that streak."
IRON ARM: Garrido took a lot of heat for allowing star closer Austin Wood to pitch 13 innings in the NCAA-record 25-inning win over Boston College in regionals. Wood held the Eagles hitless over 12 1-3 innings and threw 169 pitches.
Garrido joked that he handled the criticism like a man.
"I locked myself up in my house, didn't read the paper and didn't go to e-mails or text messages," he said.
Garrido said Wood implored him not to take him out of the game.
"If he gets a sore arm in the next 10 years," Garrido said, "it will be my fault."