Q&A: Pierce ready for challenge of new season

Emily Barton

The 2019 Texas baseball season ended in nothing short of disappointment. The Longhorns failed to reach the conference tournament for the first time since 2013. 

But Texas head coach David Pierce is beginning the 2020 season with a renewed sense of optimism and a young team full of potential.

The Daily Texan sat down with Pierce before the season opening alumni game this Saturday.

The Daily Texan: After last season, how do you plan on improving the team’s .500 record?

David Pierce: At the end of every year you evaluate, and we made a lot of improvements as far as maximizing ballplayers and putting them in positions to be successful. Our players are highly motivated, but sometimes it’s better to take pressure off of them rather than put it on. We can’t get distracted or frustrated, and we’re going to do our best against a great schedule.

DT: While you’ve retained lots of talent, it’s a pretty young team. Do you think your freshmen are ready to step up?

DP: You always think they’re ready, but until they face outside competition you’re not sure how they’ll respond. We’re going to throw them in the fire and see what they’re able to do because they’re so talented.

DT: What does the addition of (assistant coach) Troy Tulowitzki bring to your coaching staff? As a former MLB All-Star has he been helping in the infield?

DP: Tulo’s expertise as one of the best shortstops in the history of the game is huge from a player’s perspective. He’s 35, so he still understands the competitiveness. He’s been able to teach the ins and outs of the positions, how to speed up and slow down, and relate time and space to making throws. He’s a tremendous asset across the field and as a former player.

DT: Will there be any major competition for starter positions?

DP: There’s always competition. We want to utilize multiple guys across lineups, and if they don’t play they have to be ready to step up day after day. That’s the essence of a team, and we’ll have to see how well they really handle the team concept. 

DT: Can you pinpoint any strengths or weaknesses starting out the season at Rice?

DP: For strengths, DJ Petrinsky is a veteran catcher capable of calming pitchers. We’ve got quality starting pitching in multiple pitchers. We have stuff in the bullpen, and we feel confident in the outfield with veterans (Duke) Ellis, (Eric) Kennedy, and (Austin) Todd. No weaknesses, we just need to see how we respond to outside competition and understand it’s not even about the competition … it’s about ourselves and how we go out and play the game. 

DT: What are your ultimate goals for the 2020 season? 

DP: Our goal is to position ourselves for a National Championship. We break the season down and take one thing at a time. It’s critical for us to do well in nonconference, then move on to conference and do well in the tournament. Then regionals, supers and Omaha after that. If you get hot at the right time, anything can happen. 

DT: The Big 12 Preseason Poll has Texas sitting at No. 5. How do you feel about that, and who do you see as the biggest competition in the conference?

DP: I don’t pay attention to any kind of preseason rankings. We have a tough league, so we need to be healthy and confident. Right now, on paper everyone is looking at Texas Tech as the ones to beat.

DT: Is the team ready to compete and make the Big 12 Tournament, since (you) missed last year?

DP: Since we play so many games, you can’t look ahead to conference play. We have opening day Feb. 14 against Rice, and that’s what we’re here for. It’s key we don’t get too high or too low. If we struggle, we’ll adjust, and if we do well then we need to make sure we continue doing the right things to last the season. It’s a grind, but it’s a lot of fun.