Defending Big 12 champs joined by new faces to start fall ball

CJ Vogel

Fall practice is officially underway at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Longhorns are fresh off the program’s 8th regular season Big 12 Championship and their 36th trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Entering his third season at the helm of the Longhorns, manager David Pierce is thrilled to have the team back on the field.

“It’s awesome, I mean these guys came back ready to work, ready to get better,” Pierce said during his media availability Sunday. “What I have really been impressed with is our returning players, they’ve been great leaders, great ambassadors to the program and realize they can get better. There was very little arrogance in their return. (They) had a great taste of Omaha, so they have the right mentality right now.”

Similar to the beginning of fall practice last year, Pierce will be in charge of a Texas team full of new faces.

“We have some very good young arms and some guys that have a chance to insert and help us in the lineup,” Pierce said, referring to the new faces brought in by the Longhorns’ No. 8 ranked recruiting class, according to Baseball America.

If the season started today, 20 players on the 45-man roster would be suiting up in burnt orange for the first time.

Molding young players into useful pieces on any team requires a strong veteran presence, and that is exactly what junior starting pitcher Blair Henley expects to provide.

“It’s crazy because I am now one of the guys they look up to and so I haven’t been in that stage since high school,” Henley said. “Now I get to teach these kids some of the experiences I’ve had, how to play the game the right way, what to do, how the coaches coach. I’ve heard it for three years now, so I can reiterate it pretty well.”

Despite losing starting pitchers Nolan Kingham and Chase Shugart to the next level, Henley believes the Longhorns’ staff will be well equipped come the start of the season.

“These kids are legit,” Henley said. “We have (Jack) Neely, (Ty) Madden and (Kolby) Kubichek and all these big guys. I’ve looked and everyone is different and everyone is good in a different way.”

So while the experience may be lacking, the early returns are saying the talent and potential is there for the Longhorns to be a threat in the Big 12 once again and possibly make another run at the College World Series.