The Texas baseball program is set to begin their second season under the direction of David Pierce. The 2017 season ended with the Longhorns falling one win short of a berth in the Super Regionals. Expectations remain high as the team prepares for the season opener on February 16th against Louisiana Lafayette.
What the Longhorns lost
Jr. Travis Jones (27th round pick of the Kansas City Royals)
2017 Stats: .253 AVG, 4 HR, 32 RBI
Sr. Zane Gurwitz (26th round pick of the Los Angeles Angels)
2017 Stats: .305 AVG, 3 HR, 15 RBI
Jr Patrick Mathis (22nd round pick of the Houston Astros)
2017 Stats: .245 AVG, 7 HR, 19 RBI
In the season finale against Long Beach State, Mathis, Gurwitz and Jones all started in the outfield. Despite the loss of 3 experienced outfielders, Texas will still welcome back several players with considerable playing experience. Sophomore Austin Todd had a productive freshman season, batting .276 with a homer and 19 RBI’s in 39 starts. Redshirt junior Tate Shaw saw the first extended playing time of his career in 2017, receiving 22 starts and finishing the season with a .239 average and 14 RBI’s. Heading into 2018, the duo will take on a much larger role. Shaw will start the season in LF, with Todd patrolling RF. When recently asked about Todd, head coach David Pierce singled out his ability to consistently drive the ball and put pressure on defenses with his speed as to why he likes his bat in the lineup.
“Who I really like is Austin Todd,” Pierce said. “What I like is a guy with the combination to drive the ball into the gap and run, that has potential power. The combinational guy puts much more pressure on a defense”
Junior College transfer Duke Ellis will begin the year as the starting center fielder. The former Panola junior college standout hit .415 with 21 SB’s in his lone season at the juco ranks. Ellis is seen as an elite defender who utilizes his speed well in the outfield.
Redshirt junior Andy McGuire was mentioned in the bullpen preview, but also has the ability to play in the outfield. McGuire worked out all over the diamond throughout fall practice, including left field. This will be McGuire’s first season back with the program since 2015, and he has a chance to make an impact on both the mound and at the plate.
Freshman Kamron Fields is another guy who could see time in the outfield and on the mound. Fields is nursing an arm injury that will keep him off the mound for the time being, but his speed could help him see time in the outfield. The former Lakeview Centennial standout hit .426 his senior season with 28 SB’s.
I am very interested to see what Duke Ellis does this season. The addition of a left handed bat who can play elite defense is always a good thing. Ellis only struck out 16 times at Panola last season, compared to 26 walks, so he has the potential to make a difference with his bat as well.
After he was inserted into the lineup last season, I was impressed with the way Tate Shaw handled the bat. He controlled the strike zone well and rarely every threw away an at-bat. David Pierce seemed confident that Shaw and Todd would take steps forward offensively, which would bode well for Texas in helping replace the production left behind by 3 MLB draftees.