Texas Baseball 2017 Season Preview – Chandler Chappell
New head coach David Pierce is hoping to start off the next era of Texas Baseball off with a bang. The season begins with a heavyweight matchup against Rice on February 17th, a four-game series in Austin that could allow the Longhorns to start the season full steam by taking the home series.
Many key players are returning to Texas including the top 4 hitters, in terms of batting average, Kacy Clemens, Travis Jones, Patrick Mathis, and Zane Gurwitz, all of which carried OPS’s over .800 last season. Tres Barrera is the only key contributor from last year’s starting lineup that will not return in 2017. Therefore, in order for the Horns to get their offense in gear, they will rely on improvement from the bottom half of the order. If little to no improvement is shown, the offense will show much of the same sluggishness that has plagued Texas over the past few years. The good news is that Pierce is bringing in the fences of notorious pitcher’s park, UFCU Disch–Falk Field, and signed the 16th ranked class in the country, according to Perfect Game, led by top recruit and speedy infielder, David Hamilton. Pierce hopes that moving the fences in will help produce more home runs, a key factor in his Tulane offenses.
On the pitching front, Texas’ rotation loses weekend starter Ty Culbreth but has a formidable pair of top two arms in Connor Mayes, who had the lowest ERA of the starting rotation last season, and Kyle Johnston. Expect to see them start the last two games each weekend for UT. Morgan Cooper and Nolan Kingham should round out the rotation for Texas as the pitching staff looks very solid for this coming season. The bullpen will be anchored by returning Beau Ridgeway who led the pitching staff with a 3.31 ERA in 25 relief appearances last season and Chase Shugart who led the team in saves.
Key out of conference series: Rice (Feb. 17-19), UCONN (Feb. 24-26), @Stanford (March 2-5), UCLA (March 10-12), and the Horns play a weekday game against Texas A&M (March 14) before starting conference play.
The Longhorns will finish the conference season by hosting West Virginia after a road trip to TCU.