The Horns will open up the season this Friday against Sacramento State for what they hope to be a promising 2013 campaign.
After falling from national prominence last season, many in the college baseball world have discredited the Longhorns as a serious contender this season. The Longhorns are ranked in only one of the three major preseason polls. This of course didnâ€™t just happen over night. Texas posted a 30-22 record last season and failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.
For the most part, last season was filled with injury and misconduct. Sam Stafford, Cohl Walla, and Josh Urban were all lost to injury. Several players had disciplinary issues, one case leading to the dismissal of freshman Ricky Jacquez.
Another reason for the collapse could have been the teamâ€™s youth. Last seasonâ€™s roster included a combined 20 freshmen and sophomores to only 13 junior and senior players. Three of those thirteen were injured early on in the season, making it even harder for the already young team to compete.
After a rough season in 2012, the Longhorns are determined to play their way back to the big stage. Sophomore relief pitcher Toller Boardman weighed on this yearâ€™s expectations.
â€œThe goal every year is to win a national championship, but if you think that far ahead you will never make it. The process we follow is ‘one game at time’, which means to stay in the moment and focus only on the game you’re playing at the time,” said Boardman. He pitched the seventh inning in the annual Alumni Game February 2nd. After loading the bases, Boardman struck out Brandon Belt and forced Cameron Rupp into a routine double play, working his way out of his first Longhorn inning in 2013.
For a team like Texas, making the NCAA tournament every year is expected. This season, they have a chance to redeem themselves. The Horns have a more experienced squad this year, an almost 50/50 ratio of upperclassmen to underclassmen. Many of this yearâ€™s sophomores also had a chance to pitch in last season when several key players were lost to injury; giving a majority of the teamâ€™s younger players some much needed experience.
The USA Today Coaches Poll ranks only three of Texasâ€™ opponents in the preseason top 25. Baylor and TCU are the only Big 12 teams ranked in this yearâ€™s preseason poll. The third is Stanford. When asked which team would prove to be the toughest opponent this season, Boardman added, â€œIf I had to pick one team, I would say Stanford, just for the fact that we play at Palo Alto again. We can redeem ourselves from getting swept three games to none.â€
Last season when the Horns traveled to the Pac-12 powerhouse, they were swept in what proved to be the worst three game series of the 2012 season. Stanford outscored Texas 28-5 over three games. The Horns will once again travel to Palo Alto for their third series of the 2013 season. Coming in at No. 7, the Cardinal will undoubtedly be the toughest non-conference test for the Longhorns this season.
The key to success will be the teamâ€™s health. If the Longhorns can stay healthy and build strong team chemistry throughout the season, they should have no problem competing for a fifth Big-12 title. The road to redemption starts February 15th at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.