It’s happening a little later than usual, but spring has finally arrived at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
The Texas baseball team will greet its burnt-orange fans and Purdue at its home opener on Friday. The No. 23 Longhorns began their season with four games on the road, an occurrence that has happened only three times since 1940. UT took two of the three games it played last weekend at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It then pounded Rice in Houston on Tuesday.
“It’s always good to be home, especially if you come off of a good road trip,” Longhorn coach David Pierce said. “It creates a little bit more excitement of playing in front of our fans.”
With Pierce at the helm, Texas has posted a 59-16 record at home. Last season, Texas counted regional- and super regional-clinching victories among its memorable moments at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The team hit three walk-off home runs at home in 2018, and it also celebrated its winning of the Big 12’s championship on Senior Day. Stanford was the only opponent that recorded consecutive victories over Texas in Austin.
Junior outfielder Austin Todd credited the team’s success at home to a group of fans that averaged 5,272 supporters last year. That average ranked sixth nationally. “It’s one of the best atmospheres in college baseball,” Todd boasted.
Weather-permitting, at least 36 innings of baseball will be played at UFCU Disch-Falk Field this weekend. Purdue is in town for four games, and Saturday’s double-header will feature two nine-inning duels. Texas has five home games on next week’s schedule, three of which are against No. 2 LSU.
The deluge of upcoming games will give Pierce and his coaching staff plenty of opportunities to scout a team that lost several key pieces from last year’s College World Series qualifier. Over the first four games of the season, Texas had 16 different pitchers pitch. Thirteen Longhorns have batted this year.
“We want to mix guys in that we feel can really help us (while) giving ourselves the best chance to win,” Pierce said. “That’s what we’ve noticed so far, that there are a lot of contributors on this team. We felt like that going into it.”
Texas has not picked a starter for Sunday’s game. Sophomore Bryce Elder will open the four-game series on Friday. All-conference honoree Blair Henley and freshman Coy Cobb will split Saturday’s starts.
Elder was magnificent in UT’s season opener, and the Big 12 awarded him on Monday for a start that featured nine strikeouts. Henley and Cobb, however, struggled in their 2019 debuts and neither worked a four-inning shift. Pierce wants to see how Henley and Cobb respond to mistakes going forward, and two of the pitchers’ teammates expressed confidence in their abilities.
Said Elder: “They’re just competitors. I think with that, even with a bad outing, they’re going to bounce right back and do just fine.”
“They’ve thrown really well over the fall and they take their bullpens and their work very seriously,” UT catcher Michael McCann said. “I think it was just a minor glitch. I don’t think it will happen too often as the future goes on.”
After opening with three losses against Southern Miss, Purdue is winless this season. The Boilermakers did reach last year’s NCAA tournament. Catcher Zac Fascia and outfielders Ben Nisle and Skyler Hunter were placed on the Big Ten’s preseason honor roll.