As a freshman, Nolan Kingham moved in and out of the bullpen, juggling starting and relief pitching positions.
The right-hander finished the season with a 3.79 ERA and never went more than 4.2 innings in a game.
But just a season later, Kingham currently leads his fellow pitchers with a .72 ERA as a sophomore and has earned a steady spot as the Longhorn Friday night starter.
Despite the promotion, Kingham is still ready to perform whenever his team needs him on the mound.
“It’s awesome,” Kingham said. “But I’m going to pitch wherever they want me to pitch, whether it’s on Tuesday or relieving or anything. I’m just going to go out there whenever they want me to pitch.”
Kingham has already proven that he can shine on the big stage. He threw his first-career complete game shutout during last Friday’s 2-0 win over Kansas State.
But perhaps Kingham’s greatest improvements can be found off the mound. Head coach David Pierce has noticed Kingham’s keen methods of mental preparation.
“Nolan has an incredible mind when it comes to pitching,” Pierce said. “He’s probably our best guy on the chart the day before he throws. He really gets locked into what’s going on in the dugout and the process of getting ready to pitch.”
Although he currently has the hottest hand among Texas pitchers, Kingham is still hungry for more competition. The Las Vegas native looks up to his older brother, Nick — a pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization — who inspires him to continue improving his game.
“He’s been my idol since I was growing up,” Kingham said. “I always wanted to be as big as him and play as much as him, but he’s way bigger and weighs way more. But everything he says, I take in, and it’s just awesome having him there.”
Kingham also enjoys the friendly yet competitive dynamic among his pitching squad.
“Us starting pitchers — we’re all competitive and we’re all trying to top each other’s outings,” Kingham said. “We feed off it, and we just like competing with each other. We’re just all going out there, trying to top each other and just trying to set the note for the next order.”
Over the past four games, the Longhorns have posted two shutout wins against Kansas State and watched sophomore pitcher Nick Kennedy throw a seven-inning complete game during the 12-2 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday.
Moving forward, the Longhorns hope their pitchers’ friendly competition will spark the hunger for more success within every player on the team.
“One of my words for the team today is ‘contagious,’” Pierce said. “When one guy has success, it’s contagious and the team feeds off of it … It becomes competitive within the program, and that’s what we’re starting to see.”
The Longhorns’ team chemistry will be tested this weekend as they leave the comfort of UFCU Disch-Falk Field to face Kansas (10–14, 1–2 Big 12) for their first Big 12 road series of the season.
“Big 12 series are always pretty intense, regardless of who we’re playing,” junior outfielder Travis Jones said. “I know that Kansas went in and took a game from TCU, so it’s not like they are just going to lay down for anybody, so it’s going to be a pretty intense game and series.”