Head coach David Pierce is done yelling.
Following the Longhorns’ walk-off loss to Oklahoma State, Pierce sat his team down in the visiting locker room and reminded them what was at stake.
“I said, ‘Right now, on the schedule, you have 13 games,’” Pierce said. “‘You’re not guaranteed to get into our own conference tournament. Your RPI is still in pretty good shape so you have an opportunity still to get in a regional and if you get in your conference tournament. But you’re not going anywhere until that happens.’”
Pierce continued, “I’m cautious of them now trying to play because there is some pressure, there is some pressure now to do or die.”
Pierce recalls the conversation as calm. He wasn’t shy about addressing his players with a harsh message. However, that count has now decreased to 12 games after another walk-off loss to Texas State on Tuesday.
Pierce’s caution is not unwarranted. His young and inexperienced roster has 16 freshmen out of 36 players. He said he recognizes tough love at this point in the season isn’t working, and his team is far from a winning mentality.
“My biggest deal is that we are at that state because the more you hammer them the worse it gets,” Pierce said. “It’s interesting when you think like that because, really, it’s such a cliché, and it’s something that people talk about in every program, but to truly get there it takes an elite mentality, and we’re far from an elite mentality right now.”
Since facing TCU one month ago, Texas has gone 8–11. As Texas’ winning record has dwindled, so has its mental strength and team identity, and Pierce isn’t the only one who recognizes it. His players do as well.
“I would definitely say the mental side is where we’re having the issues the most right now,” catcher Michael McCann said. “It’s like we’re trying not to lose instead of going out there and knowing we’re going to win.”
With No. 17 West Virginia looming this weekend, Pierce is trying to refocus his team against the tough matchup. Thursday afternoon’s practice included individual meetings between Pierce and the players, so he could hear what each of them have to say.
“You have to have the ability to work from within,” Pierce said. “Each individual has to get a little bit better every day, just kind of helping them and guiding them to make sure they’re going in the right direction. And that’s what our one-on-ones are about, I want to hear them talk.”
With 12 games remaining for the Longhorns, each one could make or break their chances to go to Omaha. But despite all their struggles, hope is not lost.
“I think that as bad as things seem to be going, we understand that we’re not out of this,” pitcher Bryce Elder said. “All we gotta do is rattle off a few wins and it can turn around things right quick. I think we’re just fine.”