Morgan Cooper’s 2015 season was over before it started.
The redshirt sophomore looked to be the future of the Longhorns’ pitching staff following his 2014 campaign, in which he posted a 2.89 ERA. Cooper threw 56 innings for Texas, giving up 53 hits and surrendering just three home runs.
But in November of 2014, Cooper’s plans for a sophomore season were slashed as the young right hander underwent Tommy John surgery; it would take him nearly a year to get back on the mound.
“It was tough” Cooper said. “It’s real frustrating when you have to take a step back and regroup. But it makes it that much sweeter when you can make it back to where you were before.”
The Longhorns ended 2014 thinking they’d enter the following season with a stellar 1–2 punch. Along with Cooper was then-senior Parker French, who excelled as the Longhorns’ ace in 2015. French was named to the All-Big 12 second team after ending the year with a 2.57 ERA in 91 innings of work. However, a collection of young arms behind French failed to form a reliable pitching staff.
Last year began with the promise of a College World Series contender, but without Cooper or a consistently producing lineup, the Longhorns floundered. Texas ended the year just three games over .500 at 30–27, losing to Dallas Baptist in the NCAA Tournament.
“It really gets down to how we respond to the things that go wrong,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “The good teams are motivated and inspired to be better when things aren’t going well. I think we now have a good attitude.”
But now Cooper is back.
Cooper threw with a vengeance in his first game back as a Longhorn on Sunday. Cooper pitched two innings in Texas’ 7–0 romp of University of Nevada Las Vegas, looking every bit the pitcher he was prior to surgery. His short stint on the mound yielded no hits and two strikeouts, with the last one clocking in at 94 mph.
“I’ve been looking forward to [coming back] for a long time,” Cooper said. “So to be on the mound again, it was real exciting. My heart was pumping a little bit. I had that adrenaline going.”
2016 brings a new hope for both Cooper and the Longhorns. After a successful appearance against UNLV, Cooper will look to continue his strong start against Stanford. The Longhorns begin a four-game series against the Cardinal on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Austin.
“I’m only worried about my arm feeling good, and it feels good right now,” Cooper said “I just have to do what I’ve always done and focus on throwing
to the mitt.”