Texas starts its season Friday against Louisiana for the second consecutive year. The Longhorns went 2–1 against the Ragin' Cajuns last year.
Ranked 23rd on D1Baseball.com, the Longhorns head into 2019 coming off a 42-23 regular season and an appearance at the NCAA College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Following the annual alumni game earlier this month, head coach David Pierce still had several unanswered questions about his team.
“We have some real comfort with (Ryan) Reynolds at third, some questions marks on first,” Pierce said following the alumni game. “But the outfield is really starting to fall into place.”
These questions, however, expand further. On the pitcher’s mound, Blair Henley was the obvious choice as the opening day starter, as he is the only arm on the roster with over 50 innings of experience. However, the Longhorns announced Tuesday that Bryce Elder would be their starter on Friday.
“He’s up to 93 (mph),” Pierce said. “He was by far the best pitcher today.”
Coming off a 6–1 record during his freshman campaign, Elder had a strong preseason arm that knocked off veteran Henley. Elder will have to compete to keep his starting spot against Henley, though.
Elder recorded 5.55 earned runs on average last season while Henley finished with a 3.32 ERA. During a radio appearance on 104.9 The Horn, Pierce confirmed that Henley is expected to start Saturday.
Meanwhile, catcher DJ Petrinsky appeared to be dealing with a small injury during the alumni game, but should be ready to face the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“We are still just resting his arm, he’s had a little bit of a step back,” Pierce said. “But he should be ready by opening day.”
If Petrinsky is out of the starting lineup, catcher Michael McCann will start behind the plate.
Despite some challenges, the Longhorns have a solid freshman class capable of replacing the loss of shortstop David Hamilton to injury and five more players to the MLB Draft over the offseason.
“The young guys have to step up for us to make it far, and I think they will,” Elder said.
Outfielder Eric Kennedy, who was named to MaxPreps All-American first team, is expected to be a standout freshman for the Longhorns. Infielder Bryce Reagan, another newcomer to Texas, is likely to be a power hitter as well.
With a lot of new pieces heading into this season, Pierce said he is focused on developing these young talents into starters on the squad.
“Reagan is a guy that has to focus on one position,” Pierce said. “He’s young, he’s learning calls and coverages.”
Another standout for Texas is pitcher Coy Cobb. The freshman has been slated to start Sunday’s game, adding to the crowded list of starters on the roster.
“The bad side of (the pitcher competition) is that guys have to separate themselves from it,” Pierce said. “But, we need those guys and we need that competition.”
Although these freshman lack experience, Texas feels confident going into its season opener.
“I think we’re very ready,” Elder said. “I think last year the new guys saw all the success we had. I think the younger guys see as a team we are getting better day by day.”