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Remember the ranking? Nah, Texas won't make its fall from baseball polls a rallying cry

Danny Davis
Austin American-Statesman
Texas' Jack O'Dowd, left, tries to tag a Stephen F. Austin runner out at second base as shortstop Trey Faltine backs him up April 12. This week's Texas opponent, West Virginia, is the country's second-best team at stealing bases.

The Texas Longhorns are unranked yet undeterred.

Not too long ago, Texas was the country's No. 1 team in D1Baseball's preseason poll. As recently as last week, the Longhorns were 10th.

But as they make their Big 12 road trip to West Virginia, the Longhorns are nowhere to be found among the poll's top 25 teams. That last occurred in 2020.

On Thursday, head coach David Pierce insisted he wouldn't use the omission as a rallying cry. Texas (32-16, 9-9 Big 12) won't have an urge to prove the pollsters wrong.

"We just want to go get better and play baseball," Pierce said.

More:Texas responds to getting swept by Oklahoma State with a run-ruled win over Houston Baptist

Last weekend, Texas lost 8-6, 14-3 and 10-8 at home to Oklahoma State. That sweep seemingly impressed and discouraged D1Baseball voters.

Oklahoma State climbed from No. 8 to No. 3 in this week's rankings. Texas, meanwhile, joined former No. 24 Georgia Southern and former No. 25 Wofford as the teams that fell out of the poll. Georgia Tech (27-18), Florida State (26-16) and UC Santa Barbara (31-10) took their places.

Pierce did opine that it was "kind of silly to go from No. 10 to out" but added that this is simply something his team needs to overcome. When asked for a player's point of view, UT catcher Silas Ardoin told reporters, "We don't read into that much."

Tristan Stevens is usually the Longhorns' Saturday starting pitcher, but he pitched briefly in relief in Tuesday's win over Houston Baptist and might be in the bullpen again this weekend. Or he might start. "We're just going to play it by ear" with the rotation, coach David Pierce said.

"It's not that big of a deal," shortstop Trey Faltine said. "Being ranked or not ranked doesn't matter. We know how good we are and what we're capable of, so the rankings don't matter. We're just out here to play baseball and win. That's all that matters to us."

More:Beat writer Danny Davis joins OST podcast to discuss Texas baseball

UT's next opportunity to "play baseball and win," comes this weekend on the road. Since West Virginia (27-16, 9-6) joined the Big 12, the Longhorns are just 2-7 in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers are No. 2 in the country in steals, with 139. That sets up an interesting matchup between West Virginia base runners and Ardoin, who has thrown out 18 of the 43 runners who have tried to steal on him.

"It's going to be a good challenge for me," Ardoin said. "I've been waiting for a team to run a lot. ... Pitchers got to do their job, holding the run game, but hopefully I get to have some fun back there."

On Thursday, Pierce said that "for us to be successful, they're going to have to earn it to get on base." That responsibility will largely fall on a pitching staff that might look different this weekend. Staff ace Pete Hansen (7-1, 3.20 ERA) will still start Friday's opener, but Texas has not announced who will pitch Saturday and Sunday.

Bohls:Struggling Texas should bump up consistent Lucas Gordon in pitching rotation

Regular Sunday starter Lucas Gordon (4-1, 3.00 ERA) will make one of those starts. Texas, though, is still deciding if it will use regular Saturday starter Tristan Stevens (5-5, 4.97 ERA) as a starter, reliever or both. If Stevens is used in relief Friday and can't start later in the weekend, the Longhorns will probably turn to Zane Morehouse (2-0, 3.80 ERA) on Saturday.

"We're just going to play it by ear" with the rotation, Pierce said.

Texas is sixth in the Big 12 standings. The Longhorns are No. 22 nationally in RPI. D1Baseball projects them as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament while Baseball America believes they are destined for a No. 3.

The Mountaineers are tied with Oklahoma for fourth in the Big 12. West Virginia, Texas and everyone else in the conference is chasing Oklahoma State (31-13, 13-5).

"Anytime you're playing a series or if you're playing for a championship, you can't go into the series expecting the other team to make mistakes," Pierce said. "If you're going to win this, you've got to be the aggressor.

"Our intent is to go play our best, be as clean as possible and win the games."

Texas at West Virginia

Friday-Sunday, Morgantown, W.Va, ESPN+, 104.9

Friday (5:30 p.m.) — UT LHP Pete Hansen (7-1, 3.20) vs. WVU RHP Jacob Watters (2-4, 5.27); Saturday (3 p.m.) — pitching matchups TBA; Sunday (noon) — pitching matchups TBA