Baseball takes on Duke on opening day

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Sophomore pitcher Nathan Thornhill will start for the Longhorns today against Duke. Texas lost three of their top four pitchers after last season.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Baseball is a long season, but it never hurts to get out of the gates quickly. That is exactly what Texas will attempt to do today on opening day.

“I think it’s really important to get off to a good start,” said sophomore Nathan Thornhill. “I feel like a good start establishes good rhythm, and you want to win as many games as you can whether it’s the first one or the last one.”

The Longhorns will attempt to put that idea into practice when they square off with Duke in a three-game series at the UFCU Disch-Falk Field to open 2012.

The Blue Devils are coming off of a rebuilding season, in which they went 26-30 and won only seven games in Atlantic Coast Conference play. However, Duke was the youngest team in the NCAA last season, with underclassmen comprising 70 percent of the team. This season, they will be more experienced and a more difficult matchup.

“They have talented players in their lineup and first round draft picks on their pitching staff,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “Their coach is very good and has a philosophy that is very effective offensively in college baseball. I mean they are an ACC team, man. You have to be pretty good there or you don’t finish well at all.”

Texas is more talented than Duke, but is also a young team. The Longhorns are missing a lot from the team that made it to the College World Series last season. Three of the top four pitchers from the rotation are gone and the same can be said for the lineup, where the team lost a trio of .300 hitters. It will be up to a number of underclassmen to be the leaders of this team.

Thornhill will lead the rotation and will be tonight’s starter. Last year he was pitching out of the bullpen, but this year he’s the team’s potential ace. Most people would be nervous with the expectations and pressure that come with his new role, and so is he. But he embraces it.

“There will be nerves, but it’s like what Coach Garrido said yesterday in practice: ‘Don’t confuse nerves with fear,’” Thornhill said. “I just know I have to go pitch. It’s the same game I’ve been playing since I was four years old, just don’t worry about who I’m playing, but just throw it to the mitt.”

The rest of the rotation will be filled out by junior Hoby Milner on Saturday and freshman John Curtiss, who will pitch on Sunday. All three of these players have been thrust into their roles sooner than expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They feel they can be just as effective as last year’s team.

“We all throw the ball well. I think we can do just as well as [Sam] Stafford or [Taylor] Jungmann would do,” Milner said.

The team will need these three players to adjust quickly for the team’s repeat run to Omaha to be a success. That adjustment starts tonight with Thornhill’s first pitch. 

Printed on Friday, February 17, 2012 as: Young team looks to build upon last season despite personell loss