New era for Longhorn baseball begins tonight

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Junior catcher Michael Cantu swings for the fences and joins his team in welcoming head coach David Pierce for his first opening night with Texas against Rice on Friday.
Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

The anticipation of a new era ends tonight. 

Texas faithful will pour into UFCU-Disch Falk Field to experience the hype that has surrounded the Longhorns following the hire of head coach David Pierce. Pierce’s debut in the Texas dugout starts Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Pierce brings with him a style much different than the “Augie Ball” Texas became accustomed to after 20 seasons with former head coach Augie Garrido. Even so, one thing remains constant: high expectations. 

“The expectation for Texas baseball is not only to get to Omaha, but to win in Omaha,” junior catcher Michael Cantu said. “It’s always to win and to win now. It doesn’t matter who’s the coach or what players there are. It’s Texas baseball, and we’re expected to be in Omaha every year.”

As Texas prepares for opening day, Pierce’s coaching debut happens to be against Rice, a ball club that won the College World Series in 2003 when he was the hitting coach for the Owls. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s more special, but to me it’s somewhat ironic that we’re opening up with them,” Pierce said. “The competition all weekend is going to be fierce on both sides. They’ve got a very solid team coming off the regional finals.” 

The longtime in-state rival is coming off yet another NCAA Tournament run, which marks its 22nd consecutive tournament appearance. But tough match-ups aren’t anything new for the Longhorns.

“They’re legit. They’re a great opponent, and they’re going to come in here ready to swing first, and they’re going to give us their best,” Cantu said. “Being Texas, you’re always going to get everyone’s best. Them being such a good opponent and in-state rival, it’ll be fun.”

There are always obstacles in any transition from a former coach to a new one, but the Longhorns seem to understand that the most important thing hasn’t changed. 

“It’s been a little bit different for the last few months, but it’s still the same game,” junior pitcher Connor Mayes said. “He’s done great things while he’s been here, and we’re just going to continue to play the game we play … It’s a new beginning. Coach Garrido did great things here, but we’re excited to do great things for Coach Pierce.”

Pierce’s first game coincides with a new start for a batch of freshmen who are ready to lead Texas back to prominence.

“It’s a new year,” freshman pitcher Blair Henley said. “I’m excited because we really haven’t thought about last year or the year before. We are making a name for ourselves from now on.”

Pierce said 12 to 14
different players have earned a spot on the field, so he plans on utilizing their strengths in various lineups. He believes the versatile roster could make noise right away. 

“I’ve never been into waiting till I get my guys,” Pierce said. “These guys in the clubhouse now are our guys. That’s how we’ve always coached … I think we have a great team, I really do. Health is always an issue, but if we can stay healthy and we can get that confidence going, we have a chance to do damage this year.”