'I'm not done yet': Texas' Austin Todd works his way off injury report, back into lineup
When it comes to Austin Todd's age, even Texas baseball coach David Pierce has jokes.
While speaking recently about the sixth-year senior, Pierce facetiously claimed that Todd has a wife, a couple of kids and a mortgage these days. (To be clear, he has none of the above.) And Todd has noted that his younger teammates aren't the only ones who think he's an old man.
"Coach Pierce calls me ‘Pops,’” said Todd, who's 24.
On Sunday in Arlington, Pops had some pop. In the 12-8 win over Oklahoma, he went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run. The pinch runner who replaced him in the ninth inning also scored.
In the decisive game of this year's Red River Rivalry series, Todd's fifth-inning single broke up the Sooners' no-hit bid. With Texas later trailing 7-1, he led off a six-run seventh with a hit. The Longhorns then took a 10-7 lead in the ninth with the help of his two-run single.
Those three hits came in Todd's first appearance since he injured his shoulder March 8.
"An awesome day for him," Pierce said. "We've bled with the kid, and we've cheered with the kid. Just to see that and for him to be rewarded for his work and where he is in this whole big picture was pretty cool."
A Round Rock product who signed with Augie Garrido, Todd has had his share of highlights since he started in center field during Pierce's 2017 debut season at Texas. As a sophomore, he hit a walk-off home run against Louisiana. One year later, his walk-off single beat No. 2 LSU.
But injuries have also taken up a few chapters in Todd's tale.
During the 2018 season, he was limited by an issue with his left thumb. He needed season-ending surgery on his right shoulder after hurting it diving back into second base six games into his 2021 campaign. Texas reached the College World Series both years, but Todd has gotten to bat just three times in Omaha, and he didn't even travel with the team last year.
Flash forward to March 8. During the fourth inning of a 9-8 win at Texas State, Todd dove back into first base. He dislocated his surgically repaired right shoulder on the play.
"As soon as it happened, I got in underneath the dugout and popped it back in and I went up to Coach and said, ‘I'm not ready to give up yet,’” Todd recalled. "I said, ‘I'm not done yet.’”
After the injury, Todd began "busting my butt" with the team's trainers. While Texas traveled over spring break for games against South Carolina, College of Charleston and the Citadel, Todd rehabbed back in Austin. He also stayed home when Big 12 play began in Lubbock last month.
After 26 days, Todd returned to the lineup. His three hits against Oklahoma were tied for the second-best total of his career.
"We've been wanting to have him back ever since he got injured," outfielder Dylan Campbell said. "He's just been putting in work, doing rehab and stuff. He finally got back, and you can see what he does on the field."
"I think it really goes to show the kind of talent that he still has regardless of what he's gone through," said pitcher Tristan Stevens, who is also a sixth-year senior. "For younger guys and even me to see him still have that desire to go out there and not only just play, but play at a high level and still be a leader on this team, I think it really just goes to show the character that he has and why he has been a big piece of this program for so many years now."
Texas used Todd as a designated hitter against the Sooners. He returned to that position a few days later and went 2-for-3 with two walks in Tuesday's 13-5 win over Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
Pierce has expressed doubt that Todd will play the outfield again for No. 7 Texas, which will open a three-game series against No. 23 TCU on Friday. Todd, however, isn't ready to retire his glove just yet.
"I want to definitely run down some fly balls in the outfield because that's my favorite part of the game," Todd said. "If I can throw and if I can try to get back to a point to throwing, I'm going to definitely give it a shot."
TCU at Texas
Friday-Sunday, UFCU Disch-Falk Field, LHN, ESPNU
Friday (6:30 p.m.) — Texas LHP Pete Hansen (5-0, 2.51) vs. TCU RHP Riley Cornelio (3-1, 3.10), Saturday (5 p.m.) — Texas RHP Tristan Stevens (4-2, 3.16) vs. TCU RHP Marcelo Perez (2-1, 2.16), Sunday (noon) — Texas LHP Lucas Gordon (2-1, 2.53) vs. TCU RHP Brett Walker (3-1, 4.89)