Throughout the 2018 season, David Pierce preached process over results. In his 2nd year at Texas, the head coach wanted to see hitters have quality at-bats and his pitchers compete on the mound. The results were not always there. The Longhorns struggled at times, dropping series to LSU, Stanford, Kansas State and West Virginia in addition to a 2 game midweek sweep at Arkansas. The bullpen showed cracks and young hitters went through growing pains.
Texas never wavered though. Despite going 9-9 through the first 18 games of the season, Pierce continued to stay the course and believed in a team that had lost 11 players to the MLB draft the previous season, resulting in 20 new players entering the program.
“You have to win and lose together,” Pierce said after Sunday’s conference championship clinching victory. “You have to go through adversities and that’s what they’ve done. They had just had enough. They committed to each other and they’re reaping the benefits right now.”
As conference play unfolded, roles began to be defined and the pieces of the puzzle started to fit together. Andy McGuire and Parker Joe Robinson filled key bullpen roles, with McGuire notching a Big 12 leading 5 saves during conference play. Robinson finished the season with an ERA of 1.46. Duke Ellis caught fire and became an on-base machine at the top of the lineup. Kody Clemens seemingly put Texas on his back at times, blasting 12 home runs in Big 12 play. The Longhorns also began to form an identity. After being plagued by close losses a season ago, Texas started to turn the tables and win close games. Resilient became a common word when describing the team David Pierce was putting on the field.
As the calendar turned to May, the process David Pierce talked about started turning into results.
On May 1st, the Longhorns rallied from a 10-6 deficit to defeat Texas State, 11-10, on a walk-off grand slam by Hamilton. While only a non-conference game, the win over the Bobcats moved the Longhorns record to 31-17 and kept the hopes of an Austin regional alive.
Texas then turned their attention back to Big 12 play, where they trailed Oklahoma State by 3 games in the standings with 6 games to play. The Longhorns still had to travel to Lubbock to face a Texas Tech team ranked in the top 10 before finishing the season with a series against TCU.
Texas took 2 of 3 from the Red Raiders, becoming the only team to take a series in Lubbock this season. Oklahoma State struggled against Baylor, dropping 2 of 3, closing the gap in the standings to 2 games.
In the final weekend of the season, Texas Tech did the Longhorns a favor by sweeping Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Simultaneously, Texas swept TCU, making the Longhorns the winners of the Big 12.
Texas finished the month of May at 7-1, capturing something alluding the baseball program for 7 years, a regular season conference title.
“This group is special,” Pierce said. “Not so much because they have talent. They have heart and they have desire. But the love that they have for each other in that clubhouse is what has made this happen. The unselfish plays and not worrying about their stats. It’s an incredible group because of that. Not because we’re so overly talented. We know that we have to do little things right to win ball games. When it comes together it’s worth watching them and seeing their development because this team is so special.”