AUSTIN (KXAN) — As far as the Texas Longhorns baseball team in concerned, this weekend’s Stanford super regional shouldn’t be different from any of their games since May 1.
Longhorns head coach David Pierce said the team’s mentality since then has been to treat every weekend like a super regional with a spot in the Men’s College World Series at stake.
“We started playing every weekend like win or go home,” Pierce said.
And so far, with the exception of the Big 12 Conference tournament, it has worked. They haven’t lost a series since being swept by Oklahoma at home April 21-22, and they haven’t lost a true road series since March 31-April 2 against Oklahoma State. Pierce said the team had a meeting late in the season and the guys are still letting the disaster against the Sooners fuel them.
“I like to have the players talk, and one of the things that came up was the embarrassment of being swept at home by OU,” Pierce said. “We talked about not liking that feeling and doing something about it.”
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Dylan Campbell, who now has a Big 12 Conference record 38-game hitting streak and can keep the party going at Palo Alto, said it’s more fun to play these postseason games “as the enemy.”
“I don’t think it’ll be as hostile as it was at East Carolina last year,” Campbell said. “We’ve faced some adversity and we ended the year on the road a lot. Losing the first game against Kansas with Lucas (Gordon) on the mound really taught us a lot.”
As far as the national rankings and reputation are concerned, the Longhorns have been on the craziest amusement park roller coaster. One week they are in, the next out, then back in again, then out again, and after the sweep of West Virginia, two polls slotted them at No. 13 after being unranked the week before. Pundits and talking heads on television don’t know what to think of the Longhorns, and Campbell is cool with that.
“A lot of people picked Miami to come out of the regional, and we ended coming out, so we have to go in with that same mindset like we’re the underdogs,” Campbell said. “It kind of feels weird to say that playing here, but I think we are going into this weekend so we have to keep grinding it out.”
More about the opponent, the Stanford Cardinal
Don’t let the nerd stereotype fool you about one of the Pac-12’s most successful baseball programs — they are tough as nails and won’t back down from a fight. Stanford has 693 hits this season, nearly 12 per game and No. 4 in Division I, and they’ve mashed 113 home runs this season, No. 11 in Division I. Their .318 team batting average is ninth in the country and their .405 on-base percentage ranks No. 33.
They are led by junior catcher Alberto Rios, the Pac-12 player of the year, who is having a monster season. Rios is hitting .392 with 18 home runs and 71 RBIs, and for a player who hits with such power he also has patience. He’s walked 38 times this year to help compile a .496 on-base percentage, and he’s struck out 33 times. Whenever a player walks more than they strike out, it’s a very good thing.
Tommy Troy leads the team with a .410 batting average with 17 homers, and four other Cardinal players have double-digit dingers.
They’ve got a true ace on the mound, too. Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Quinn Mathews has struck out 136 batters and walked 38 this season in 111 innings pitched. He holds opponents to a .234 batting average and has given up 11 home runs.
The Cardinal is 22-7 at Sunken Diamond this year, but the team is coming off a regional tournament in which they had to rally. For the second consecutive year, a team from Texas took the Cardinal to the brink. Stanford needed Monday to beat Texas A&M for a second time to advance, and last season the Texas State Bobcats nearly upset them at home.
Texas shortstop Mitchell Daly said the team is in a good spot right now and he’s excited to get it going Saturday.
“We’re going to have a good gameplan going in,” Daly said. “Their arms are similar to what we’ve seen this season, but they are a good staff and we know that.”
The series begins at 5 p.m. CT Saturday and will be broadcast on ESPN2.