On Tuesday night, Texas head baseball coach David Pierce eked out a win against his old team and the Longhorns furthered their current win streak to four games. The Texas Longhorns beat the Sam Houston State Bearkats by a final score of 3-2 in a tough pitching battle that included a total of 10 combined pitchers.
The story of the game was Texas’ relief pitching. After freshman starter Nico O’Donnell failed to make it past the third inning, the bullpen showed up in a big way. Relievers, freshman Bryce Elder and juniors Matteo Bocchi and Nolan Kingham, combined for six total innings and allowed only three hits and one earned run. Head coach David Pierce gushed about his bullpen and gave them the credit for putting the stamp on the game.
“(It was) a rough start, and honestly our guys just battled through it,” Pierce said. “(We) pieced the bullpen together. I thought Bocchi filled a bridge there. And I thought Elder was really good, and then Nolan with the close was outstanding.”
Mentally, junior utility player Masen Hibbeler showed some grit throughout the night. He struggled in the field at shortstop and gave up both Texas’ errors of the night, but fought through the adversity to hit the go-ahead RBI that would eventually be the difference in the game.
“He’s a tough kid, man,” Pierce said. “First pitch breaking ball, and he gets the base hit, RBI, game-winning hit. He’s just that kind of grinder. He just grinds it out, and I’m just really proud of him and the team.”
Hibbeler, who was clearly upset with himself after letting up the errors, said that he had to stay focused after the mistakes. He added that in those moments, it’s about the team rather than yourself and that his job was to stay focused on his teammates rather than himself.
“I was pretty fired up about (the errors),” Hibbeler said. “I normally don’t make mistakes like that in the field. So I was fired up. And I had to pick my team up. So that’s what I did. I went up to the plate and stuck to my approach and did what I do at the plate.”
Although Pierce faced his former team, he admitted that he was “past all that.” He added that, tonight, he was focused on Texas and saw Sam Houston State as just another team and quality opponent. Pierce’s players, however, believed that getting a win meant a little more to their head coach.
“Coach Pierce was fired up today,” Hibbeler said. “It’s his former team and old school, so we were fired up, too. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game, and we just came out and did what we did.”
An overall impression from the game was that the team still possesses its firepower from the beginning of the season. Ousting a quality opponent in a midweek game was uplifting — not because of statistics and rankings, but because of the players’ love for the game and drive to succeed.
“(Our) motivation is that we get to come out here and play baseball,” Hibbeler said. “All the guys on the squad love to play baseball. We talked about how we have to hate losing more than we love to win. And we pretty much took that, and we’re trying to run with that.”
Texas returns to conference play this weekend when it faces Oklahoma State at home. First pitch on Friday night is scheduled for 7 p.m.