Masen Hibbeler asserts his presence early for Longhorns

Shane Lewis

Masen Hibbeler received only one offer coming out of high school — a chance to play junior college baseball at Odessa College. Two years later, the junior infielder is hitting in the No. 2 spot for a major Division I program.

After the Longhorns’ first series of the season this past weekend, Hibbeler leads the team in batting average after going 7-for-13 against Louisiana. The transfer has quickly garnered the respect of his teammates.

“He’s a baller. He can play,” sophomore outfielder Austin Todd said. “He’s not just some junior college guy that comes out here and we hope he can play. He’s a hitting machine.”

Hibbeler’s early success with the Longhorns should come as no surprise — the infielder has racked up achievements at every level of playing baseball. As a high school senior, Hibbeler helped lead Cypress Ranch to a Class 6A state title. Last season at Odessa, Hibbeler led his squad to a conference championship while batting an astronomical .493.

Texas head coach David Pierce readily acknowledges the skill that has propelled Hibbeler to this point, but he says his success is more a reflection of his drive.

“It’s much more than about his talent, but just his desire and how he plays the game,” Pierce said. “He hits the ball in the infield, and he’s busting down the line every time. He puts a little pressure on himself to avoid failure. I think he’s the right type of catalyst, he’s the right type of leader and he’s built the right way.”

In his debut with the Longhorns last Friday, Hibbeler helped pave the way to a 3-0 opening day win. Hibbeler knocked in three singles — half of Texas’ hits that day — and stole two bases. His work on the basepaths also led to two of the team’s three runs.

The junior’s speed and ability to hit for average have become his calling card. But on a Texas team with high aspirations, Hibbeler is looking to do whatever he can to pick up victories.

“I try not to worry about numbers — any situation I can get in to help the team is what I want to do,” Hibbeler said. “Whether it’s laying a bunt down or hitting a ground ball, I’m not looking for average. I’m just looking to help the team.”

Production from unfamiliar sources, such as from Hibbeler, has been a theme for the Longhorns (2–1) early into the 2018 campaign. On Sunday, it was junior pitcher Josh Sawyer, who hadn’t played in a game in 659 days, coming in to pitch 2.1 shutout innings. On Saturday, it was junior pitcher Chase Shugart, who didn’t allow an earned run in his first career start.

On Wednesday, another fresh face will look to produce when freshman pitcher Nico O’Donnell gets his first collegiate start on the mound against Lamar. O’Donnell will try and sustain the starting pitching success for a Texas unit that ranks sixth in the nation in ERA.

So far, new faces have become ingrained in the DNA of the Longhorns.

“With a lot of junior college guys and freshmen stepping up, we all play with a chip on our shoulder,” Shugart said. “That’s going to be our team this year.”

Texas takes on Lamar (1–2) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.