He’s been Texas’ head coach for only 19 games, but David Pierce already has himself a signature win.
Hosting rival Texas A&M on Tuesday, the Longhorns held the No. 22 Aggies in check, riding five strong innings from starter Nick Kennedy and staving off a late rally to win, 4-3.
|HOW THE TOP 25 FARED|
|(1) Louisville: off|
|(2) Florida State: lost, 1-0, at (5) Florida|
|(3) Texas Christian: lost, 7-0 at Long Beach State|
|(4) Oregon State: off|
|(5) Florida: won, 1-0, vs. (2) Florida State|
|(6) Louisiana State: won, 13-0, vs. Louisiana College|
|(7) Cal State Fullerton: won, 6-1, vs. San Jose State|
|(8) East Carolina: won, 9-4, at Duke|
|(9) Clemson: won, 10-6, vs. Yale|
|(10) South Carolina: PPD at Furman|
|(11) Texas Tech: lost, 5-1, at Texas-Arlington|
|(12) Arizona: off|
|(13) North Carolina: won, 9-2, vs. Maryland|
|(14) Louisiana-Lafayette: off|
|(15) Virginia: off|
|(16) Baylor: off|
|(17) Stanford: off|
|(18) Mississippi: won, 5-0, vs. Nicholls State|
|(19) St. John’s: PPD at New York Tech|
|(20) Coastal Carolina: PPD at UNC-Wilmington|
|(21) Florida Gulf Coast: off|
|(22) Texas A&M: lost, 4-3, at Texas|
|(23) Oklahoma State: won, 3-0, vs. New Mexico|
|(24) Michigan: off|
|(25) Washington: off|
The victory was significant on multiple levels--in the context of the rivalry and in the context of the season. Pierce’s Longhorns struggled out of the gate this year, splitting a four-game series with Rice on opening weekend and losing three of four at Stanford. But Texas has been clicking of late. The Longhorns swept UCLA over the weekend, and the win against Texas A&M gives the team momentum heading into a difficult Big 12-opening series against No. 11 Texas Tech.
The importance of Tuesday’s win wasn’t lost on Pierce.
“I think for our program and our mentality, it’s huge,” Pierce told texassports.com. “It’s not just another Tuesday night, and we’d be kidding ourselves if it is. It’s a great builder for our program and for our players. I feel like they can compete and beat anybody in the country.”
First baseman Kacy Clemens and catcher Michael McCann drove in Longhorn runs in the win, and the team took advantage of four Texas A&M errors to pad its lead. The Aggies scored two runs in the eighth to pull within one, but closer Chase Shugart managed to shut the door.
“(Our confidence) is high,” McCann said. “It’s really high. But I think we need to stay on a lower level and keep calm and collected and keep pounding on.”
Texas-Texas A&M wasn’t the only compelling rivalry action Tuesday.
Over the last few seasons, Florida has held a sizable edge over Florida State in their fierce rivalry series, going 12-3 in the teams’ previous 15 games before Tuesday night.
The No. 5 Gators continued their series dominance, but they did so by the tiniest of margins.
Florida defeated the visiting No. 2 Seminoles, 1-0, with the Gators scoring their lone run on a two-out check-swing bloop single to shallow left field by junior catcher Mark Kolozsvary in the seventh. The hit scored sophomore Jonathan India, who doubled with one out in the inning.
“Lo and behold, a check swing wins the ball game,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan told floridagators.com. “It’s crazy. The game sometimes is unexplainable. On Saturday, Keenan Bell hits a ball off the top of the wall, a couple more inches and it’s a three-run homer and we’re not going to extra innings. Today we win the game on a check swing. It’s hard to explain sometimes.”
Clearly, Tuesday’s game was a pitcher’s duel, with Florida freshman Nate Brown throwing five scoreless innings and FSU redshirt sophomore Andrew Karp striking out 11 and allowing just the one run in seven innings. With the win, the Gators reversed their fortunes in midweek games after going 1-4 to start the season, including two losses to Florida Gulf Coast last week. The Gators, however, are still trying to find their rhythm offensively.
“We’ll keep looking at this thing and get the offense going,” O’Sullivan said. “Once this offense gets going the way it’s capable, which I know it is, with our pitching we’re going to be tough to beat. With what we’ve got starting wise on the weekend and what we’ve got developing in the bullpen, our main guys, we don’t have to score 5 or 6 to win every night. We just don’t, if our guys continue to do what they’re doing on the mound. I’m encouraged.”
Outside of the rivalry games, two additional Top 25 teams lost to unranked opponents, including No. 3 Texas Christian--the preseason No. 1 team--to Long Beach State.
The Horned Frogs have had a tough road trip out west, losing two of three at UC Irvine over the weekend before Tuesday’s 7-0 loss. The typically potent Horned Frogs lineup couldn’t solve the Dirtbags’ combination of five pitchers, mustering only five hits. Long Beach State, meanwhile, roughed up TCU relievers Dalton Horton and Durbin Feltman to cruise to a win.
No. 11 Texas Tech, meanwhile, fell to Texas-Arlington, as the Mavericks tagged starter John Henry Gonzalez for three runs early. The loss was just the 14-4 Red Raiders’ fourth of the year, and they’ll need to bounce back quickly as they head to Austin to open conference play against the surging Longhorns.