AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a perfect, 3-0, run through the Austin regional last weekend, the Longhorns are set to host Tennessee Tech in the super regionals for a berth in the College World Series.
“I just think it’s so cool for our team,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “It’s awesome that you go out to the Disch now and people are so excited. Those are the things that I visualized when I took this job. How quick can we get this back to that point?”
For Pierce, the answer is two years. In just his second year at the helm, Pierce brought a regional back to UFCU Disch-Falk Field for the first time since 2011 and a super regional for the first time since 2014.
“You’re gonna see some jitters,” Pierce said. “If you’re not a little bit nervous, I don’t care if you’re the visiting team or the home team, it’s just natural. And if you don’t have those butterflies in your stomach, you’re probably not ready to play. So how you channel that is gonna be the difference, especially early in the game.”
Tennessee Tech comes into the weekend after an upset of Ole Miss in the Oxford regional. After winning that regional, Pierce doesn’t expect Tech to be rattled at all by a sellout crowd.
“You’re playing a team that just came from Oxford that’s in an SEC environment, so I don’t know how they’ll respond,” Pierce said. “They’ve played a lot of games on the road and played well on the road.”
The Golden Eagles lead the country in batting average, hitting .342 as a team, and in total home runs — their 128 are 33 more than the next closest team. All of that helping them to the best record in the nation at 52-10. But despite those gaudy offensive numbers, they insist they’re more than just an explosive offense.
…we need to keep the season going.
“To win championships and be 52-10, you can’t do it with just one part of the game,” head coach Matt Bragga said. “Everyone looks at us, fairly, and says, ‘Wow, this is an offensive juggernaut.’ Well, we have won some 3-2 and 2-1 games. These guys, the great thing about them is they know how to win in a lot of different ways, whether it’s pitching, defense or from an offensive standpoint.”
Texas will look to Kody Clemens to continue his historic offensive season. The All-American leads the team in home runs with 21, and the major leagues have noticed. On Tuesday, the Detroit Tigers drafted Clemens with the first pick in the third round. This week also saw Clemens named a finalist for both the Golden Spikes award and the Dick Howser Trophy. Like he has all season, Clemens will have to block out all the noise off the field.
“All the stuff that’s been going on with the awards and everything, I’ve kinda cherished the moments and then got it right out of my head,” Clemens said. “I’ve kinda been doing that basically all season. I think that’s exactly what’s gonna happen this weekend. All that’s gonna get out of my head, and I’m just gonna focus on game one.”
Just as Clemens will look to keep swinging a hot bat, so too will Texas’ pitching staff try to continue its dominance. As a starting rotation, Chase Shugart, Nolan Kingham and Blair Henley combined to give up just two earned runs and one walk in 21 innings.
“We’ve seen some top arms,” Tennessee Tech senior first baseman Chase Chambers said. “We’ve some top arms these past two years. They don’t scare us. We know that if we stick to our plans and play the baseball that we’re capable, we can beat anybody.”
Tennessee Tech starting pitcher Travis Moths was just as confident in his team.
“We know we can do it,” Moths said. “We have what it takes to make it to Omaha. And win it.”
If the Eagles do make it to the College World Series, it’d be their first trip in school history. This weekend is their first appearance in the super regionals.
As for Texas, they’re back in the supers for the 10th time in program history and looking for their record 36th trip to Omaha.
“We talk about how everyone’s all over us, everyone’s texting us saying, ‘Oh my gosh, good job.’ Hitting us up with everything like that,” Clemens said. “We gotta look at it like, ‘Thank you,’ but we’re not done. Everyone needs to know that, obviously, we’ve gotten to this point, but we need to keep the season going.”
Saturday’s game against Tech starts at 2 p.m.