On Tuesday against UTSA, redshirt sophomore pitcher Cole Quintanilla quickly found himself in trouble in the top of the first. After allowing the first three batters to reach base, he was faced with a bases-loaded situation with no outs. But the right-hander didn’t panic, allowing only one run and striking out two.
It was the perfect high-leverage situation to describe how, so far through their 5–0 start, Texas’ ability to pitch under pressure has been one of its biggest strengths.
“Honestly, a year ago, (Quintanilla) wouldn’t have gotten out of the first,” head coach David Pierce said. “It wasn’t the prettiest start, but he only minimized the damage to one run in that first inning.”
The Longhorns hope to continue their strong pitching performance in the first home weekend series of the season against Boise State. Junior ace pitcher Bryce Elder will take the ball on the mound Friday at 7 p.m. on UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Pierce credited much of Texas’ early success to the maturity of several sophomore pitchers, including Quintanilla as well as Ty Madden and Kolby Kubichek.
“I would have to say our pitching staff has been outstanding,” Pierce said. “You’re starting to see some of those kids that were freshmen last year who thought they were big guys and big arms. Well, they’re learning how to pitch right now … So, these kids are growing up and learning to trust in their pitches.”
The improvement has led to a team ERA of 1.80 through five games, an opposing batting average of .218 and 48 strikeouts with just two home runs through 45 innings. Opposing hitters haven’t hit for power against the Longhorns, with only nine extra-base hits, and they’ve struck out at an above-average rate. All of these are positive signs that this isn’t a result of a small sample size.
It all comes back to trusting their pitches in high-leverage situations. Before the season started, Texas pitching coach Sean Allen emphasized mentality as the key for team improvement.
“It’s just that confidence,” redshirt senior catcher DJ Petrinsky said. “These guys just go out there and throw strikes and challenge hitters with their stuff. That’s what we need. They’re just going to come in and dare someone to hit the ball.”
Nowhere is that confidence more apparent than in freshman pitcher Andre Duplantier II, who worked his way out of a second bases-loaded jam Wednesday and has drawn effusive praise from not only his catcher Petrinsky but also Pierce.
“More than anything, (Andre) believes in himself,” Pierce said. “He’s going to throw his pitches in there, and even if you’re successful, he’s going to do it again. And I think that’s something that young players have a hard time doing because they have a tendency to look at the hitter instead of just trusting themselves.”
Following Elder’s outing Friday, the Longhorns will start Madden on Saturday for the 2 p.m. game and sophomore Coy Cobb on Sunday with an early 12:30 p.m. start time.
However, the Boise State team may prove to be a challenge, as there is very little known about them. The Broncos haven’t fielded a baseball team since 1980, and Friday’s game will be their first in 40 years.
But the Longhorns are hoping that this pitching staff can continue their hot streak and the team can emerge from the weekend unscathed before the first big test of the season against LSU on Feb. 28.