AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s probably one of the most intriguing matchups between a No. 1 and 4 seed to start the college baseball postseason, and it’s happening Friday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Texas, the No. 9 national seed, kicks off Austin Regional play against the Air Force Falcons — a team that has beaten them this year and has a first-team All-American expected to start on the mound.

The teams played a quick two-game set in April with the Falcons bashing their way to a 14-2 win in the first game, then Texas earned the split with a walk-off win in a 12-10 slugfest April 19-20 in Austin.

Longhorns head coach David Pierce said the Falcons aren’t a team to take lightly, especially since they’ve already won at the Disch.

“They had some success here,” he said, “and these are a bunch of young men built for adversity and combat, and they will not be intimidated.”

Both teams didn’t put their ace pitchers on the mound, as typical in midweek games, but Texas essentially emptied its bullpen using 13 pitchers while the Falcons used nine. Needless to say, expect things to be a little different with two All-Americans slated to throw.

Paul Skenes, a sophomore two-way star with an electric fastball that touches 100 mph at times, will start for the Falcons. He was the co-pitcher of the year in the Mountain West Conference with a 10-2 record and 2.42 ERA and 92 strikeouts. He was named a first-team All-American as a utility player by College Baseball Newspaper because he also crushes the ball at the plate. Skenes enters play Friday with a slash line of .326/.426/.652 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in 141 at-bats.

Skenes played catcher and was a designated hitter for the Falcons against the Longhorns, going a combined 4-for-9 with five RBIs and two home runs. Since he’s pitching, he’s not projected to be in the hitting lineup, but if head coach Mike Kazlausky likes a matchup, he’ll go to his big bat.

The Falcons are more than the 6-foot-6, 225-pound fireballer, however. Mountain West Conference player of the year Sam Kulasingam is the single-season leader in hits for the academy with 103 with a .414 batting average — the second-highest in the country. He was named a third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.

He hit leadoff for the Falcons in both games and had three hits including a home run against the Longhorns. Outfielder Gabriel Garcia had terrific games against Texas with three hits and six RBIs.

Air Force (30-27) won the Mountain West Conference tournament after entering as the No. 4 seed. The Falcons beat San Jose State 8-3 for the academy’s first-ever MWC title.

Texas (42-19) will counter on the mound with its go-to arm, senior left-hander Pete Hansen. Hansen was named a second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and has a 10-1 record with a 3.01 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings pitched. He has only walked 16 batters and held opponents to a .208 batting average against.

Dallas Baptist and Louisiana Tech are the other teams in the regional. They’ll play in the nightcap at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

“We’re gonna have to go out and play a great game,” Pierce said. “I think our team is well-prepared to do that. I like our fight, and our mentality against anybody in the country. I think it’s going to be an exciting day with those two games.”

Regional schedule, game times, how to watch

Friday, June 3

  • Game 1: Air Force vs. Texas | 1 p.m. | Longhorn Network
  • Game 2: Dallas Baptist vs. Louisiana Tech | 6:30 p.m. | ESPN+

Saturday, June 4

  • Game 3: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 | Noon | Network TBD
  • Game 4: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 | 6 p.m. | Network TBD

Sunday, June 5

  • Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 | 1 p.m. | Network TBD
  • Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5 | 7 p.m. | Network TBD

Monday, June 6 (if necessary)

  • Game 7: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5 | 2 p.m. | Network TBD