Baseball

Regional rivalry? Aggies an attraction but David Pierce warns Longhorns to not overlook other guests

Posted May 28th, 2018

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Not long after Texas received word on Monday that Texas A&M had been placed in UT’s regional, Kody Clemens received a text message from Aggie catcher Baine Schoenvogel.

“Uh oh,” said Schoenvogel, who is a friend of Clemens.

Replied Clemens: “Let’s go. Can’t wait to see y’all.”

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As the NCAA tournament gets underway this weekend, Texas (37-20) and Texas A&M (39-20) will be joined by Texas Southern (27-26) and Indiana (38-17). Texas Southern won the SWAC tournament. Indiana is the second seed in the Austin regional.

The main draw for UT fans, however, is a Texas A&M team that recorded a 6-5 win over Texas in College Station on April 10.

“A&M’s obviously our rival and that’s going to be really exciting for them to come here,” said Clemens, whose school last hosted a regional in 2011. “The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable and we’re definitely ready to play.”

David Pierce is 76-44 in two seasons at Texas. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A postseason match-up between Texas and Texas A&M — which last happened in 2014 — is not a certainty. Texas will first meet Texas Southern at UFCU Disch-Falk Field at 8 p.m. on Friday. That game will be preceded by the first-ever meeting between the Aggies and Hoosiers.

The regional tournament, which will send its winner to face the champion of a regional held at Ole Miss, will use a double-elimination format.

Texas handed Texas Southern a 10-2 loss in a game that was played at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field earlier this season. Texas Southern’s .307 batting average ranks ninth nationally. The Tigers also claim a gaudy team 5.23 ERA.

On Monday, Texas coach David Pierce wasn’t about to look past the Tigers. Pierce recalled being an assistant coach at Rice in 2004 when Texas Southern upset the Owls in a regional opener. Rice was the NCAA defending champion at the time.

“It’s not about Texas and A&M. It’s about Texas playing Texas Southern and four really good teams in the regional,” Pierce said. “If we don’t know how, at this point, how to play one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time, then we’re not ready for this regional.”

Indiana’s team 2.95 ERA is the fifth-best in the country. The Hoosiers have shutout seven opponents. Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Stiever is rated by MLB.com as one of the top prospects for next month’s draft.

Texas A&M ranks just seven spots behind Indiana with a 3.23 ERA. The Aggies and Hoosiers are both hitting .284, but Texas A&M has scored eight more runs (albeit in four more games). Texas A&M’s RPI of 15 bests that of No. 22 Texas and No. 29 Indiana.

“They’re good. They’ve got really good arms. Their hitting’s pretty good,” Clemens said when asked to assess the Aggies. “They always come with an attitude, but I’m excited that we get to play them and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Kody Clemens (2) races toward first after driving in teammate David Hamilton during Texas’ 8-6 win over Stanford at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on March 8, 2018. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/for Austin American-Statesman)

Texas Southern is the only team in UT’s regional that has an active winning streak. Texas, Indiana and Texas A&M were all defeated in their conference tournaments.

The Longhorns went winless in Oklahoma City last week, dropping 3-2 and 3-1 decisions to Kansas and Oklahoma. The losses snapped a five-game winning streak for Texas, which won the Big 12’s regular-season crown. Texas is hitting .272 with a 4.36 ERA, and its defense is still considered one of the nation’s best.

“We felt it was a humbling experience in Oklahoma City but at the same time we were coming off one of the highest-of-high weekends that you can have as a team,” junior Andy McGuire said. “No excuses there, but at the same time sometimes you need a little wake-up call to get rolling. I feel like we’re in a really good spot going into the weekend.”

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