2017 Record: 39-24 (11-12 in Big 12); reached regional final. Final ranking: No. 24 Coach (Record at school): David Pierce (39-24, 1 year). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: RHP Nolan Kingham (57).
The good news: In David Pierce’s second year at the helm, the Longhorns will once again boast one of the deepest pitching staffs in the country. Friday starter Nolan Kingham will front the rotation with his power stuff, and converted relievers/swing men Chase Shugart and Blair Henley will slot in behind him—both of whom can run their fastballs up to the mid-90s. The Longhorns will need to figure out a bridge to shutdown veteran closer Beau Ridgeway but should have plenty of options in the form of senior lefty Josh Sawyer and righthanders Andy McGuire and Bryce Verplank.
The bad news: The Longhorns, who slugged .387 as a team last year, lost their two leading power hitters from a year ago—Kacy Clemens (12 homers) and Bret Boswell (seven homers). Texas’ stingy pitching staff means the Longhorns can have success without out-slugging the opposition—but offensive progression from a few key underclassmen could come in handy. Shortstop David Hamilton, first baseman Ryan Reynolds and outfielder Austin Todd all started last year as freshmen and are expected to take leaps forward. The toolsy Todd had a strong fall and could be poised for a breakout sophomore year.
Returner to know: Nolan Kingham, RHP: Kingham is coming off an outstanding sophomore campaign in which he went 10-4, 2.84 as Texas’ Friday night starter. A 6-foot-3, 205-pound workhorse, Kingham should give the Longhorns an edge every time he takes the mound. He pounds the zone with a power sinker in the low- to mid-90s, adding a mid-80s slider as an out pitch. He keeps the ball on the ground and competes even without his best stuff. He threw two complete games including one shutout for Texas a year ago.
Path to Omaha: While the Longhorns should pitch well on paper, they will need a few of their arms to adjust to new roles. That transition will need to take place quickly as the Longhorns have a challenging non-conference slate to start the season, including series against Louisiana-Lafayette, on the road against Louisiana State and Arkansas, and a four-game series against Stanford that could very well produce four pitcher’s duels. Assuming Texas’ arms pitch up to their talent levels and its sophomore position players make the necessary progression, the Longhorns should be a dangerous club come June.
C D.J. Petrinsky, Jr. Transfer—Hill (Texas) JC
1B Ryan Reynolds, So. .212/.346/.347 | 193 AB | 5 HR | 25 RBI
2B Mason Hibbeller, Jr. Transfer—Odessa (Texas) JC
3B Kody Clemens, Jr. .241/.356/.365 | 170 AB | 5 HR | 23 RBI
SS David Hamilton, So. .218/.305/.292 | 202 AB | 0 HR | 20 RBI
LF Tate Shaw, R-Jr. .239/.358/.370 | 92 AB | 2 HR | 14 RBI
CF Duke Ellis, So. Transfer—Panola (Texas) JC
RF Austin Todd, So. .276/.359/.359 | 145 AB | 1 HR | 19 RBI
DH Michael McCann, Jr. .268/.346/.321 | 112 AB | 0 HR | 16 RBI
RHP Nolan Kingham, Jr. 10-4, 2.84 ERA | 92 IP | 67 SO | 0 SV
RHP Chase Shugart, Jr. 3-2, 3.43 ERA | 42 IP | 30 SO | 3 SV
RHP Blair Henley, So. 4-5, 4.23 ERA | 62 IP | 47 SO | 0 SV
RP Beau Ridgeway, Jr. 2-2, 1.89 ERA | 52 IP | 40 SO | 12 SV
RP Josh Sawyer, Sr. Did not play – injured