Texas is set to make their first visit to Huntsville, Texas in program history, but the Longhorns already have a close connection to the city.
Head coach David Pierce returns to Sam Houston State with his Texas ballclub following his three-year stint with the Bearkats from 2012-2014. Pierce guided them to the NCAA Tournament each year during his tenure.
Pierce’s Bearkats won the Southland Conference regular season title in all three of his seasons in Huntsville, but the head coach isn’t expecting the warmest of welcomes when he trots into the visiting dugout tonight.
“I’ll probably get booed,” Pierce said. “For me personally, it was great for us, the three years kind of set the stage for us for other opportunities … I’m very appreciative of their administration and I’m very appreciative of the people I’ve worked with. But we’re going to play a baseball game and that’s what matters.”
Don Sanders Stadium holds just over 1,000 seats, but Sam Houston State predicts them all to be full at 6:30 tonight, as a familiar face returns to “The Don.”
“Sam is going to be crazy tonight, I can tell you that,” Pierce said. “It’ll be sold out and it’s something that hasn’t happened, I don’t think in the history of Texas, going to Huntsville. They’ve got a quality team and they’re a top-35 team and they’re very, very solid.”
The Longhorns come off a 2-2 series split with No. 25 Rice at UFCU Disch-Falk Field last weekend. Some of the Longhorns’ high points were on full display in their two wins in the doubleheader on Saturday, including their patience at the plate.
“I don’t know if y’all noticed, but the first game, we were swing, swing, swing. After that, we really started taking tough pitches,” senior first baseman Kacy Clemens said. “That was one of our bright spots that we talked about … So I think we’ll continue to grow on that and get better.”
Senior outfielder Zane Gurwitz, who was one of only two Longhorns that started every game last season, was sidelined by a hamstring injury throughout the opening series.
“Right now, he’s jogging and fielding everything,” Pierce said. “He hasn’t sprinted yet. We’re going to play it slow because I don’t want him to re-tweak that, but he’s day-to-day. He could possibly be ready on Wednesday.”
Pierce emphasizes aggressive base running. He says he wants the opponent to have to make a play, and he’s willing to accept the consequences when they do.
Aggressiveness both at the plate and on the bases led Texas to a combined 11-run outburst during the doubleheader against Rice on Saturday. Pierce said Longhorn fans might get frustrated with the way Texas plays offensively, but they might just have to get used to it — he’s not letting up any time soon.
“It’s been interesting to see the dynamic of our offensive base running as we talk about it daily, and how it can put an extra guy in scoring position,” Pierce said. “There’s things there that we’re always going to press. There’s times we’re going to get thrown out by 10 feet and people will want to boo us, but it’s what we do. We want to be aggressive.”