Lucas Gordon’s relationship with Tanner Witt helps him rise to Sunday starting pitcher

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the April 29, 2022 flipbook.

Coming into this season, sophomore left-handed pitcher Lucas Gordon was just a bullpen guy.

With three preseason All-American pitchers in the weekend rotation, head coach David Pierce slotted the left-hander as the Wednesday starter early in the year against Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, seemingly sealing Gordon’s fate as a primary reliever in the 2022 ballclub.

However, sophomore starting pitcher Tanner Witt’s season-ending UCL injury forced Gordon onto the mound and into Texas baseball’s limelight on March 6 during the matchup against UCLA at the Shriners Classic in Houston. 

Playing against his hometown team in a professional ballpark, Gordon was ready for the big moment.

“Being from Los Angeles, they’re five minutes away from me. I knew every kid on the team,” Gordon said. “I was super pumped to face them and to finally get a chance.”

While the southpaw’s first game as the Sunday guy wasn’t perfect, the Los Angeles product looked California-cool on the mound, winning over Texas fans with his laid-back demeanor and his four hit, one run showing in four innings pitched against the Bruins.

Gordon noted that replacing Witt on the mound was easier with their shared history. In high school, both pitchers played for the 2017 USA Baseball 15U National Team, where the squad was named co-champions of the COPABE Pan American ‘AA’ Championships.

“I’ve known Tanner since I was 14 or 15,” Gordon said. “We’ve always had a super close relationship, and he just keeps my head up.”

After coming back from Texas’ grueling South Carolina road trip where the then-No. 1 ranked team dropped the series and lost a match to the College of Charleston, Gordon sought out Witt as a friend and a mentor for help developing a stricter routine.

“Tanner has been very supportive of me — even though (he) is injured, he still goes out on the mound with me,” Gordon said. “He’s really been helping me out and giving me confidence.”

Gordon also worked closely with assistant coach Sean Allen, who helped him become more confident pitching to contact and trusting sophomore catcher Silas Ardoin and the defense to make plays.

For Gordon, his first weekend start on the mound at UFCU Disch-Falk Field against Incarnate Word marked a turning point in his collegiate baseball career. For seven innings, the lefty commanded the zone with his sharp changeup and his controlled fastball, striking out four and grounding out ten in his first weekend win. 

“There’s no pressure, just give yourself a chance to win,” Gordon said. “My defense is great — we’ve been great all season. (I) just go out there, throw strikes and compete.”

Since his start against Incarnate Word a month ago, Gordon developed a new swagger on the hill. The sophomore has not dropped a game for Texas in his five consecutive Sunday starts, recording a 3.00 ERA with 24 strikeouts and one sole home run given up. 

Before the Texas Tech series, where Gordon dished out 101 pitches and seven strikeouts to avoid getting swept on the road, the sophomore expressed his excitement about playing as a leader on the team. 

“I’m built for it, in my opinion,” Gordon said. “What I always wanted to do (was) to start at Texas. Getting the opportunity is great.”