Pierce to face former team in midweek contest

Travis Hlavinka

Riding a three-game winning streak, Texas will face head coach David Pierce’s former team of three years. Tuesday night, the Longhorns will battle the Sam Houston State Bearkats in a mid-week game before returning to conference play this weekend against Oklahoma State.

Pierce coached the Bearkats from 2012-14, compiling a total record of 121–63. In conference, his teams finished 66–24 and won the Southland Conference each season. Pierce also helped match Sam Houston State’s best postseason run in school history, where the Bearkats were one victory away from advancing to a super regional for the first time in school history.

Following the 2014 campaign, Pierce made a two-year stop at Tulane before taking over the Longhorns for the late Augie Garrido, who was dismissed following the 2016 season. In 2018, Pierce has coached the Longhorns to a 12–9 record, sitting an unblemished 3–0 in Big 12 play following this weekend’s sweep over Kansas. The sweep was particularly welcomed because it erased the struggling Longhorns’ five-game losing skid.

“Obviously we were really excited to start conference (play),” redshirt junior reliever Andy McGuire said. “Starting off with a sweep is huge for our guys. If we had any doubters before, hopefully this was a nice little way to show that we mean business and we’re going to keep grinding.”

Most importantly for the Longhorns is that they seemed to have found their pitching stride as of late. Texas’ starting pitching staff, in particular, bounced back this past series after a rough stretch against Stanford and Arkansas — two of the nation’s top teams. Junior starting pitcher Chase Shugart believes that the team didn’t perform poorly but struggled as a result of a strenuous non-conference scheduling.

“We’ve always had a swagger and attitude about us,” Shugart said. “But facing the competition we did early in the season and the adversity we faced is going to help us out in conference play and in the long run, and hopefully in the postseason.”

Junior Masen Hibbeler, who hit his first home run of the season on Sunday against Kansas, believes the team’s success against Kansas was a sign of things to come.

“It’s tough to sweep anybody,” Hibbeler said. “So coming out and being able to do that, it’s big for us. And we just want to keep our momentum going in our mid-week against Sam (Houston State) and this weekend against (Oklahoma State).”

That momentum will be important as the teams will face a very stout opponent on Tuesday in Sam Houston State. According to D1Baseball.com, the Bearkats check in as the 25th-ranked team in the nation. Standing at 16–4 with a win over No. 8 Vanderbilt under its belt, the squad from Huntsville, Texas, is not an opponent to be taken lightly.

Since Pierce’s departure, the Bearkats have emerged as a national power, reaching a peak this past season when head coach Matt Deggs led the program to a 44–23 record and its first-ever appearance in an NCAA Super Regional.

Texas will look to notch its fourth consecutive victory. Tuesday night’s game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.