‘Comeback kids’ look to stay hot in May

Shane Lewis

It may be time to start calling the Longhorns the “comeback kids.”

After erasing a four-run deficit in the ninth inning to beat Texas State on Tuesday, the Longhorns have now notched 13 come-from-behind victories this season.

“I’ve had a couple of teams like this, and it’s really fun to watch because they’re never out of it,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “They just never feel like they’re out of it. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s fun to watch.”

With a team filled with fresh faces and young players, nothing has come easy for Texas this season. Despite the growing pains that go along with a roster trying to mesh, Pierce said that the comebacks and close wins can be attributed to the team’s attention to detail. 

“We’re a team that has to do all the little things right,” Pierce said. “And somehow, some way, we just continue to fight.”

Doing the little things right will be of importance this weekend as the No. 24 Longhorns (31–17, 12–6 Big 12) travel to Lubbock to take on No. 9 Texas Tech (34–12, 11–7 Big 12). Texas and Texas Tech sit at second and third in the Big 12 standings, respectively, and are within striking distance of conference leader Oklahoma State with two series left in the season.

With both teams ranked late in the season, though, the implications of the series extend much further than a regular season conference crown. 

“I think this series potentially gives us an opportunity for hosting (a regional),” Pierce said. “I think for Texas Tech, this series gives them the chance at getting a national seed.”

One issue that the Longhorns will try to shore up this weekend is their shaky bullpen. Against Texas State on Tuesday, Texas shuffled through nine of its pitchers, five of whom gave up a run. 

An inconsistent bullpen has plagued the Longhorns throughout the season. Pierce said that a lack of experience and practice time has limited the progress made by his pitchers. 

“I’ll be honest with you, one of the biggest issues we have is practice,” Pierce said. “I mean we play so many games, and we try to get as much done in the game. It’s just frustrating because we don’t have the practice time, and we don’t get enough in-game experience with some junior college guys and definitely some freshman guys.”

But with the Longhorns heading into the final stretch of the season, and with the postseason on the horizon, it may be too late to figure out the shaky bullpen situation. A lot of pressure will be put on starting pitchers Nolan Kingham, Chase Shugart and Blair Henley as the season winds down. 

“We’d love to stay with some (bullpen) guys, but they’ve proven that they’re only good for three outs,” Pierce said. “Be prepared to see our starters go deep in games.” 

Despite the problems out of the bullpen, the Longhorns will look to build on the momentum that they built up in April. After going 12–9 in March, the Longhorns enjoyed their best stretch of the season this past month. In April, Texas went 14–5 and was 8–1 at home.

“It’s actually been our best month. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been our best month,” Pierce said. “We’ve just got to build off this and what we’ve done in April and have a good May.”