Longhorns head to College Station for showdown with Aggies

Shane Lewis

When Texas takes on Texas A&M in College Station Tuesday night, there will be no conference implications at stake. Now, almost six years after the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC, you would think the animosity between the teams would have died down.

But make no mistake, these long-time rivals want to beat each other just as badly as ever.

“C’mon, Longhorns versus Aggies?” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in the parking lot or in a midweek game or in a super regional — it’s going to be fun. They’ve got a great club, and it’s going to be a hostile environment. It’s going to be a great experience for our team.”

Texas and Texas A&M have matched up only five times since the Aggies departed the Big 12 in 2012. For the Longhorns, the midweek road trip is a chance to continue a tradition.

“It’s one of the best rivalries,” sophomore pitcher Blair Henley said. “I’ve always loved watching the Texas A&M rivalries, whether it be football, basketball or baseball when I was younger. It’s going to be fun competing.”

Both teams enter Tuesday night’s game at Blue Bell Park playing some of their best baseball of the season. The Aggies have won three of their last four games, including a statement series win over No. 20 LSU.

Texas, meanwhile, is in the midst of its longest winning streak of the season. Since a dramatic 11-10 loss to Kansas State on March 30, the Longhorns have pulled off six consecutive wins. Texas (22–12, 9–3 Big 12) now sits at third in the Big 12 standings and is only two games back of first-place Oklahoma, who Texas faces in a three-game series in Norman this weekend.

With both teams finding their groove, Tuesday’s showdown comes with an added degree of intensity.

“The egos are big for both teams,” Henley said. “We have to go out there and do our job (to compete).”

Texas has showcased a will to win by any means necessary during its winning streak. The Longhorns powered their way to a 9-3 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last Tuesday thanks to a three-home-run game. Against Baylor on Saturday, Texas leaned heavily on its pitching, grinding out a 2-0 victory.

Pierce attributed the team’s ability to win in different ways to the versatility of his lineup.

“I love the fact that we’re able to utilize different players,” Pierce said. “When you’re able to utilize a diverse group, then you see guys really working hard in their preparation because there’s a chance of opportunity or loss of opportunity.”

As the team heads into the second half of the season, it may be tempting to say that Texas is hitting its stride. But three times this year the Longhorns have had winning streaks of three or more games; after two of them, the Longhorns lost at least consecutive games.

More consistency will be important down the stretch, and Henley thinks that the team has found just that.

“I would say we’re peaking,” Henley said. “We’ve had it in us this whole time. It’s just now coming together.”