Longhorns secure regular season conference title

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Photo Credit: Alex Briseño | Daily Texan Staff

Change should take time, and it usually does. Texas fans know this all too well.

But as the Longhorns hoisted the Big 12 regular season title in front of a sold-out UFCU Disch-Falk Field after a 7-3 victory over TCU, all of a sudden it didn’t seem like head coach David Pierce was in just his second season at Texas.

Soon after “The Eyes of Texas” concluded, junior second baseman Kody Clemens held the Big 12 trophy over his head as the massive crowd erupted. Then, the Longhorns doused Pierce with a tub of ice water.

“This group is special,” Pierce said. “They’ve got talent, don’t get me wrong, but they have heart. They have such desire. The love for each other in our clubhouse is what’s made this happen.”

At first glance, Texas simply displayed a poised, confident and, at times, dominant squad. But a first glance wouldn’t reveal that this Longhorn team lost 11 players to the MLB Draft last season. And the team celebrating with the Big 12 trophy certainly didn’t resemble the same team that struggled with a 9–9 record back in February.

That team was nowhere to be found as the Longhorns completed the series sweep of TCU, capping off a five-game win streak to end the season.

“It was only a matter of time,” freshman pitcher Kamron Fields said. “We all just sat down and said, ‘Hey let’s just calm down, get back to what we know,’ and that’s exactly what we did. … If the message hasn’t been sent yet, it’s definitely sent now.”

Kody Clemens proved to be the hero in game two after launching a walk-off home run, giving Texas a 5-3 win. And he immediately picked up right where he left off just in time for game three, blasting a two-run home run to give Texas an early 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Despite the Horned Frogs’ successful comeback to tie the game at 2-2 in the fourth inning, Kamron Fields shut down TCU from the mound after giving up just two hits and no runs in 3.1 innings.

Texas immediately answered in the bottom of the fourth, putting together a massive five-run inning which was more than enough to secure the series sweep in front of 7,294 fans, the largest crowd of the season.

“The fans the last week have been incredible,” Pierce said. “This is your vision when you come to a place like this that has been struggling with fan base and confidence in the team and what’s happening, and for us to get it in year two and continue to feed off of it, this is what Disch-Falk Field and University of Texas baseball is about.”

Now, Texas waits for several results: Will Texas host a regional? Will David Pierce be named Big 12 Coach of the Year? Will Kody Clemens be named Big 12 Player of the Year?

Senior first baseman Jake McKenzie said he has the answer to the last question.

“That’s a silly question. I think it’s pretty obvious,” McKenzie said. “He’s the most clutch player I’ve ever seen. He’s the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time). I've got nothing else to describe it. It’s unreal, I’ve never seen anything like it –– 19 home runs now, and all in big situations helping us win games.”

As for Clemens, he wasn’t particularly concerned about any accolades after the game. One hour after the sold-out crowd fled the stadium, one person remained on the field: Clemens, who sat on second base facing the “AG16” which lays in the middle of the Longhorn logo in center field honoring Longhorn legend Augie Garrido, who died on March 15 at the age of 79.

This likely isn’t Texas’ last home game. The Big 12 title drastically improves the Longhorns' chances of hosting a regional, but Clemens didn’t appear to want to take any chances on not taking advantage of his last stretch of games at the Disch, as he soaked in the quiet after the storm.

The Longhorns made it clear that they weren’t satisfied with just one regular season title. They want four more: the Big 12 tournament title, the regional and super regional title and, eventually, the College World Series title.

It starts with the Big 12 tournament, and Pierce doesn’t want his team to forget about its regular season title.

“I don’t think you forget about this,” Pierce said after the game. “I think what you do is you build off of it. You don’t get arrogant. You don’t get complacent. You continue to understand why you got into this position, and that’s because you did little things and you worked for it. That’s what we’ve got to continue to do.”

The conference tournament begins Wednesday, May 23 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. For now, though, the Longhorns will celebrate their 78th regular season conference championship.