Longhorn clubhouse juggles youth and experience

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

When a batter “presses” at the plate in baseball, he is said to be putting too much mental pressure on himself to perform well, leading to unnatural adjustments and declining results.

Head coach David Pierce said his players pressed in the batter’s box all weekend against a competitive Texas Tech pitching staff. 

And the results seemed inevitable. Texas’ control of the game flipped from riding a six-game winning streak to falling in a series sweep at the hands of the Red Raiders.

“I think it’s the first challenge that we’ve had — a real challenge,” redshirt junior pitcher Morgan Cooper said. “We’ve bounced back pretty well throughout the year. … It’s still early, we know that, but we’ve got to respond.”

But the Longhorns’ three-game skid traces back to a more intangible facet of the game: the lack of upperclassmen experience on the field. 

Texas lost senior Zane Gurwitz to a hamstring injury and junior Patrick Mathis after he ran into a wall during the team’s 4-3 win over Texas A&M last Tuesday. Both outfielders held leadership roles as veterans of the program.

“Right now is when you just see the experienced players take over, and you noticed that with Texas Tech,” Pierce said. “I’m really proud of our young players, but you do miss those veterans when we’re in this conference play right now.”

The Longhorns needed to rely on their young players to pull a large amount of the team’s weight throughout the series against Tech, and the Red Raiders took advantage of Texas’ shortage of experience.

However, the Longhorns believe the losses are simply learning opportunities that will cultivate grit and spark success ahead.

“This team reminds me a lot of the 2014 team where Zane (Gurwitz) and I and Tres (Barrera) were having to start as freshmen and trying to get our feet wet and figure it out,” senior first baseman Kacy
Clemens said. “We’re trying to share leadership and our experience to help these guys grow faster, but I think they’re doing a great job.”

Clemens compares his current ball club to the team from the 2014 season, when Texas made a trip to the College World Series. Although the result of this season is still up in the air, Clemens can find himself in Omaha once again if his squad achieves the right balance between youth and experience.

The Longhorns will have another learning opportunity as they hit the road to face Texas State (12–8), who just won a series against defending champion Coastal Carolina. They look to bounce back from their three-game skid Tuesday as they visit a hostile crowd in San Marcos. 

“It’s rowdy,” Clemens said. “When we go there, it’s a packed house and they really want to win. They’ve beaten some really good teams this year so we’re going to have to be ready. They’re definitely a tough opponent, and it’s an exciting atmosphere there.”