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Bohls: Texas baseball team to showcase star pitcher Ty Madden, quality team

Kirk Bohls
Austin American-Statesman
Texas baseball coach David Pierce, right, speaking with Eric Kenney, center, and Silas Ardoin in a game last year, is optimistic about this year's team, which is picked third in the preseason Big 12 poll.

While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:

1. Batter up. Ready for Texas pitchers to bring the heat? Who isn't in this harsh winter? The Texas baseball team is full speed ahead and hopes to start the season Saturday in the State Farm Classic at Globe Life Field. Longhorns coach David Pierce is hugely optimistic about his team, which was picked third in the Big 12. A huge component will be lefty Pete Hansen, but Pierce said the versatile redshirt freshman won’t be available yet because of missed time in the fall due to contact tracing and another two-week setback recently. Hansen can fill a variety of roles but probably would be the No. 2 starter if he was at full strength. ... Pierce said the rotation isn’t set behind ace Ty Madden, the preseason Big 12 co-pitcher of the year along with Kansas State’s dynamic Jordan Wicks, who could be a top-five pick in this year’s MLB draft. KSU coach Pete Hughes recruited the left-handed Wicks when he was at Oklahoma but glad he’s a Wildcat. His best pitch is a devastating changeup along with a 93-mph fastball, but Hughes loves “his four-pitch mix, and he’s really good in big moments. He loves the big stage.” … Potential weekend starters include freshman Lucas Gordon as well as projected Big 12 freshman of the Yyar Tanner Witt from Houston Bellaire Episcopal. … Pierce said the only two spots seriously up for grabs are second and third base with Cam Williams, Dylan Campbell and Mitchell Daly the top candidates at second and Ivan Melendez the leader at third with Williams a possibility. Pierce said, “We’re not concerned that we don’t have people that can’t play the position, but those are probably the only two positions that haven’t settled into positions yet.” … One surprising thing from the All-Big 12 team is the lack of a single TCU player. “No doubt it was noticed,” said Horned Frogs coach Jim Schlossnagle, who has brought it up to his team. "We’re one of the older teams in the country, but we’re actually pretty inexperienced. We have a lot of juniors and seniors, but our (Big 12) weekend rotation has a combined one Big 12 start.” … Texas Tech outfielder Dylan Neuse, who hit .355 last season was chosen the preseason player of the year.

2. Far from busts. Longhorn fans can still donate to the funding of the Duke Carlisle, Eddie Phillips and Vince Young busts and have their name engraved in gold on the black granite pillar for $250. The James Street bust is already funded. As of last week, Jimmy Nixon, who spearheads the project, said they have collected more than $80,000 with pledges for another $10,000 toward the $108,000 goal. Checks should be mailed to: Pat Frost, c/o Frost Bank, at  P.O. Drawer 1600, San Antonio, TX 78297. .. While the busts and the pillar honoring the four national championship teams is a grand idea, I still wonder if the school should find a way to recognize stars like Roosevelt Leaks, Tommy Nobis and Bobby Layne. Earl Campbell and others probably never would have set foot on the Forty Acres if Leaks hadn’t paved the way. Nobis, who once had 28 tackles in a game, remains the defensive standard that VY is on offense. Layne, the only Longhorns quarterback to ever lead an NFL team to a world championship (three of them), once scored all 40 points in a 40-27 Cotton Bowl win over Missouri. He ran for three touchdowns, threw for two, kicked four extra-points and caught a 50-yard touchdown pass.

3. Family ties. Duke Carlisle still has ties to Austin. His daughter, Eloise Terry, and her husband live here, and Duke’s grandson, Zach Terry, is a sophomore guard on the Westlake football team. He’s 6-2, 240 pounds, and “I don’t think he’s done growing yet,” Carlisle said. He also has a granddaughter named Carlisle, who’s a sophomore at Arkansas. Duke said when she picked the Fayetteville school, he told her “good luck, but I have to tell you there’s a day when Pappy couldn’t have allowed you to do that. That was Enemy No. 1.”

Former Texas star Jordan Spieth is qualified for next month's Dell match play event in Austin. The four-time major champion hasn't won an event since 2017.

4. Jordan Spieth sighting. He’s not back, but he’s certainly in the neighborhood, and that’s good to see. Given up for dead with no victories since 2017, the former Longhorn continues the long climb back and is seeing positive results. He tied for third in this past weekend’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and led a tournament after 54 holes for the second straight week. “I’m legitimately going around with maybe my B-game, and I know that stepping on the first tee,” Spieth said. “And being in the lead by two, you can look at it both ways. It's pretty awesome that I feel that I'm still significantly far off of where I want to be and am able to be leading the tournament through 54. But at the same time, it's very difficult to go out knowing that you don't have your best stuff and to go out there with my own expectation that I'm going to win today.” … Now if he can at some point harness his loose driver and hit more than the six fairways he did on Sunday and make a big putt or two as he did when he skyrocketed to fame and won four majors, he’ll be all the way back. He has risen to No. 62 in the world after finishing 2020 at 82nd and for now sits qualified for the top 64 at the WGC-Dell Match Play in a month. “So, that's kind of the battle going into the day and I just hope that I continue to progress like this to where I can stand on that first tee as confident as I historically have been and where everything's at to where I can go out and play boring golf and just hit a bunch of greens and make it a really easy 18 holes to win a golf tournament.” He heads to the Genesis Invitational at Riviera where he always plays well. … Also keep an eye on rising star Daniel Berger, who rolled in a 31-foot eagle putt to win at Pebble for his second win since the PGA’s restart last May. He won the first event at Colonial last May and looks to be on the way to a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. … Four former Dell champions have committed to the March event. Kevin Kisner, the 2019 champion, will join Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Jason Day here.

5. Holding strong. The Texas men’s basketball team is projected as a No. 4 seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament when the forecasted brackets were unveiled over the weekend. … The Longhorns women are penciled in as a No. 7 seed but had a miserable showing against Baylor with no offensive punch. But they continue to play feisty defense, and Lauren Ebo has been a bright spot along with the bruising Audrey Warren.

6. Welcome to the league. No one in the Jaguars organization is going to stand up to Urban Meyer. Hey, Urban, you’re not in college anymore. He tried to pull a fast one and hire a disgraced strength coach who was accused of belittling and bullying Black players at Iowa, and he thought he could slip it by. Meyer has plenty to learn that players hold considerably more clout in the NFL than in college. It’s the first setback for Meyer. You wonder if he would have tried to bring Chris Doyle to Texas if Chris Del Conte could have convinced Meyer to take the Texas job. 

New Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, right, will follow Nick Saban's lead on access to his assistants. Sarkisian won't allow his two coordinators to speak to the media this season, saying he wants one voice to be heard.

7. Clampdown on coordinators. My American-Statesman colleagues and I had a good virtual sit-down with Steve Sarkisian last week, and I continue to be impressed with his intensity and his drive to make Texas nationally relevant again. But I don’t agree with his stance that his assistant coaches, including coordinators, will be off-limits to the media next season because he wants to use “one voice” to speak for the program. His. I understand it, I know that’s the trend of many programs these days, and I know it’s the same approach Nick Saban uses. But there’s only one Nick Saban. It would mark the first time in the entire history that a Texas head coach will not allow his coordinators to talk. And it deprives fans a chance to connect with these coaches, feel like they know them and hear the staff’s thoughts in their own words. The decision also hurts these assistants’ branding and in a way their chances of future head coaching jobs, and it deprives reporters of chances to do more thorough features on players. It’s his program, but it also belongs to the fans. I just don’t happen to agree with this trend. 

8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to Lance Watson, the former UT cheerleader who played in 10 games during Bob Weltlich's first season because the ultra-disciplinarian needed bodies for his depleted men's basketball team in the 1982-83 season, when the Horns went 6-22. 

9. On the couch: “The Little Things” has the feel, the narrative and the soundtrack of a quality suspense thriller and doesn’t disappoint although Jared Leto’s character was right when he told Rami Malek he wasn’t a very good cop. Denzel Washington carries the story as only he can. I liked it more than most critics although the story does have holes in it. Gave it 7 ducks.

Crazy prediction: Dallas will trade Dak Prescott to Houston for Deshaun Watson. All-time crazy?