Longhorns arrive in Omaha with aura of Augie all around them

Travis Hlavinka

When Texas runs out on the field at TD Ameritrade Park for their first game of the College World Series Sunday afternoon, it will mark the program’s 36th appearance — a national record.

But when they run out, it will also be the Longhorns’ first appearance since 2014, when the late former head coach Augie Garrido was at the helm.

As for second-year head coach David Pierce, the College World Series isn’t anything new to him. As an assistant coach under Wayne Graham at Rice University, Pierce played a part in the Owls’ 2003 national championship. Since Pierce’s last trip to the College World Series in 2008, again as an assistant at Rice, a lot has changed.

“I was very fortunate my first year at Rice; it was 2003, and we won a national championship,” Pierce said. “So I've been able to at least give some information and some stories to our team that you think the University of Texas and you think that we're returning so many players that have been in Omaha, but Texas hasn't been here since '14. And (so) myself and (redshirt junior reliever) Josh Sawyer are the only two on the team that have been here.”

After taking over as head coach for Sam Houston State and then Tulane, Pierce had not been able to accomplish the feat of bringing his team to college baseball’s biggest stage. Two seasons after taking over for Garrido in 2016, though, Pierce and the Longhorns find themselves back in the national spotlight.

While there are many storylines surrounding the team, such as Big 12 player of the year and junior second baseman Kody Clemens’ spectacular offensive season and the return of junior pitchers Nolan Kingham and Chase Shugart, none are larger than the passing of Garrido.

Garrido, who passed away on March 15, was revered by countless college baseball coaches across the country, many of whom have coached their own teams to Omaha this year.

“First time I had a conversation face to face (with Garrido), it was in Nebraska, my first year there — we still played at Buck Beltzer Stadium,” Van Horn said. “And we had worked out, I think, on a Thursday, early, and it was kind of cold. And then I kind of stayed around and when Texas got there and tried to spy on him a little bit, watch him practice. Trying to win.”

Another head coach spoke glowingly of Garrido, this time of rival Texas Tech, who will take on defending champion Florida on Sunday evening. Tech’s head coach Tim Tadlock only faced Garrido for a short time, but spoke of the impact that he had not only on him, but the entire sport.

“He was very much like a grandfather, I think to all of us,” Tadlock said. “A lot of wisdom there. He’s a special man. He’s very good to all of us, did so much for the sport of baseball.”

Pierce and No. 13 Texas take on No. 5 Arkansas at 1 p.m. Sunday in its first game of the program’s 36th appearance in the College World Series.