2021 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 12 Texas
Last season: 14-3
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): David Pierce (122-77, four years)
The good news: After a poor 2019 campaign that saw it finish last in the Big 12 and miss the NCAA Tournament, Texas got back on track in 2020 and was off to a 14-3 start. It did so with a relatively young team that is now ready to take another step forward in 2021. As is typically the case for the Longhorns, the team’s strength is its pitching and defense. Righthander Ty Madden has been a solid member of the rotation and is now ready to lead the staff after this fall making a leap forward. His fastball ticked up, touching 99 mph, and he put himself in play as a top-10 draft pick. Behind Madden, lefthander Pete Hansen will move from the bullpen—where he was dominant in 2020 as a true freshman—to the rotation and the Longhorns have several more options for starters. Defensively, Texas returns catchers Silas Ardoin and D.J. Petrinsky and shortstop Trey Faltine, who will keep them strong up the middle. The Longhorns also return fifth-year senior Austin Todd, their leading hitter, and fourth-year junior Zach Zubia, their biggest power threat. The lineup gets a boost with the addition of fifth-year senior Mike Antico, a graduate transfer from St. John’s, who last year was named preseason Big East player of the year. Texas also has a bevy of exciting freshmen, headlined by righthander/third baseman Tanner Witt, who was a top-100 player overall in the 2020 draft class and has true two-way potential.
The bad news: Texas lost two key players in ace Bryce Elder and Duke Ellis, who had been a three-year starter in the outfield. With Madden ready to replace Elder on Friday nights and the likes of Hansen, Witt and righthander Kolby Kubichek ready to fill in behind him, the rotation should remain strong. Antico gives Texas a ready-made replacement in the outfield and at the top of the order for Ellis and brings more power potential. He’ll have to prove he’s ready for the step up in competition the Big 12 will provide, but he has the pedigree for it. The Longhorns are also without closer/infielder Andre Duplantier, who is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. They have plenty of depth on the mound but will have to rebuild the back of the bullpen. Redshirt junior righthander Tristan Stevens brings experience, redshirt sophomore righthander Dawson Merryman was excellent last season after transferring from junior college and his sidearm delivery makes for a tough at-bat, and several freshmen, including righthander Aaron Nixon, have impact potential.
Player to know: Trey Faltine, SS.
Faltine took over at shortstop as a true freshman in 2020 and showed he was ready for the role right away, homering on Opening Day against Rice. He got bigger and stronger over the offseason and should take a step forward offensively in his second season. Faltine has the most upside of any of Texas’ position players and any strides he takes in 2021 will be significant.
Path to Omaha: Texas’ rotation is young but has clear Omaha upside. If, at the end of the season, it’s pitching to its potential as one of the best rotations in the country, that group could take the Longhorns a long way in the postseason. Texas’ young hitters need to continue to progress in 2021, but with veterans like Kennedy, Todd and Zubia returning, it has a solid core. This is the most talented Texas team in a decade. Now, the Longhorns have to live up to that ability.
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|C||Silas Ardoin, R-Fr.||.241||.371||.276||29||0||4|
|1B||Zach Zubia, R-Jr.||.288||.356||.492||59||3||21|
|2B||Dylan Campbell, Fr.||HS -- Houston|
|3B||Cam Williams, R-Jr.||.250||.362||.375||40||1||9|
|SS||Trey Faltine, R-Fr.||.259||.343||.362||58||1||7|
|LF||Eric Kennedy, R-So.||.288||.380||.356||59||1||13|
|CF||Mike Antico, R-Sr.||Transfer -- St. John's|
|RF||Austin Todd, R-Sr.||.375||.430||.500||72||1||15|
|DH||Ivan Melendez, R-So.||Transfer -- Odessa (Texas) JC|
|RHP||Ty Madden, R-So.||3||0||1.80||25||26||0|
|LHP||Pete Hansen, R-Fr.||2||0||0.00||17||18||1|
|RHP||Tanner Witt, Fr.||HS -- Houston|
|RP||Dawson Merryman, R-So.||3||0||1.74||10||10||0|
|RP||Tristan Stevens, R-Jr.||2||0||1.50||6||6||0|