David Pierce was just happy his first pitch didn’t bounce.
Fresh off a trip to the College World Series in his second season, the Texas baseball coach was on hand to throw out the first pitch and reflect on the college baseball season at the Texas Exes night Sunday at Dell Diamond.
“Our players were just incredible about being there for each other and staying in the moment,” Pierce said. “From being 9-9 and having no regrets. We were going to continue to work hard, grind it out and let the chips fall. We came out very confident and had a lot of success because they were very team-oriented.”
The Longhorns are one of the most successful programs in the country, having made 36 CWS appearances and won six National Championships, most recently in 2005. This season, however, they lost to Arkansas in this first game and Florida in their second game to leave Omaha without a win.
Pierce said this is something he can build on, adding it takes some time to understand what it’s like in Omaha before taking the next step.
There are 297 teams and 289 didn’t make it to Omaha,” he said. Nobody picked us to be there. As much as we would’ve like to do better once we got there, we definitely overachieved all year. So we built a pretty good foundation.”
The one thing that stood out to him was the stories that made the 2018 Longhorns unique.
Starting first baseman Jake McKenzie majored in petroleum engineering, there were a couple 23-year-old pitchers in the bullpen that hadn’t picked up a ball in a couple years and multiple walk-ons played key roles for Texas.
Coupled with the talent surrounding them, the selflessness of the team was not surprising to Pierce.
“It’s very refreshing in this day and age because of the way things evolve,” he said. “So many times, kids are just trying to get theirs. When you’ve got guys totally committed to Texas baseball, it’s very rewarding.”
Pierce said the presence of legendary Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido, who died in March, was ever present during the season.
With the history of the program and the team getting to the College World Series a little quicker than anybody expected them to, it gives the staff something to build on.
“It helps with recruits and returning players,” Pierce said. “When you talk about Omaha, they know what it takes to get there. When you talk about expectations, they truly understand it.”