Texas baseball starts fall ball, sets lofty goals for 2022

Nick Hargroue, Sports Reporter

Texas head coach David Pierce set lofty goals on Friday that include plenty of wins and a trip back to Omaha, Nebraska, for this year’s baseball team.

Returning players  such as Mike Antico, Trey Faltine and Cam Williams will lead this year’s squad in place of MLB draftees Ty Madden and Zach Zubia. Pierce said he expects his team to be a national title contender out of the gate.

“I think we lost a lot with Ty Madden. (He’s) one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever had,” Pierce said. “Guys like Antico are filling his role, and Zach Zubia (is) such a cultural type player for us. … Cam Williams is such an inspiration every day, so the bar has been set by that group.”

Texas played its second day of fall ball on Friday, when Pierce addressed the media for the first time since June. Pierce expects this team to be even better than last year’s team that made the College World Series and hopes to build off of that team’s success.

“I think it’s program building where you set a standard, and now the next year, the standard starts at a higher place,” Pierce said. “There’s only a handful of teams that really understand it, and there’s only a handful of teams I would say that have a legitimate chance of winning. I feel like we’re one of those teams.”

The Longhorns finished 50–17 last year, winning the Big 12 regular season title and hosting a Super Regional to boot. Texas lost to Mississippi State in a College World Series elimination game, highlighting how difficult it was to stop last year’s team.

“There’s only one team that is going to be really excited at the end of the year, and we were close,” Pierce said. “But we didn’t get it done, so hopefully the team this year uses that as a motivator.”

Pierce hopes to replicate last year’s success in 2022 with his returning talent. Pitcher Tristan Stevens will be key to Texas’ national championship aspirations. Stevens decided to come back to the Forty Acres after falling out of the top 20 rounds in the 2021 MLB Draft.

“I think he was really disappointed that he didn’t get drafted in the top 20 rounds and didn’t have opportunities, so he’s coming back with a little different edge.”

Texas will need that edge to continue its dominant pitching performances into the regular season, as pitching is a key aspect to any title-contending team.

While the players are obviously important to a team’s success, so too are a team’s coaches.

In 2019, Texas added Troy Tulowitzki, retired all-star shortstop who played for the Colorado Rockies from 2006-2015, to the coaching staff as an assistant coach. In addition, Sean Allen won Division I Baseball’s Assistant Coach of the Year award for his work with the pitching staff. A strong coaching staff behind Pierce helps the Longhorns when it comes time to reload and recruit more talent to come play for Texas at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

“(Texas) has always been an easy sell,” Pierce said when asked about recruiting. “It’s just a very positive environment, this is who we are. Sean was the Division I Assistant Coach of the Year, that’s huge for recruiting and pitching.”

With as much incoming talent and returning players as Texas has, the Longhorns could be poised to make another run at their first national championship since 2005.