Rivalry returns to action on diamond

David Pierce (Joe Cook/IT)

David Pierce (Joe Cook/IT)

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AUSTIN — Since late November 2011, the Texas vs Texas A&M rivalry has yet to take place on a football field. 

It has taken place online in arguments between UT and A&M fans, on the cover of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, and in various press conference swipes from coaches on both sides over the years.

It has had several chances to heat up, including in some non-revenue sports. However, the hottest the rivalry has been over the past five and a half years has been when Aggies and Longhorns meet on the baseball diamond for a nine-inning period of time.

While high level politics may prevent the two teams from ever meeting on the gridiron again, both sides were able to set up a home-and-home for 2016 and 2017 following a fantastic matchup in 2014. During the 2014 Houston regional, Texas took one of the first meetings in a major sport between the two teams since the 2012 baseball season. The Aggies took Game 2, setting up a winner-take-all third game that would propel the winner to the final 16.

Chad Hollingsworth, pitching with emotion stemming from the rivalry, tossed a complete game two-hitter to send Texas to the super regional, with UT players throwing their Horns up while looking at the Aggie dugout after the game. This was in response to A&M’s closer completing the Aggies’ Game 2 win and immediately flashing the Horns down to the Texas dugout.

The Longhorns returned to College Station for the first time since 2011 for a midweek game during spring break last season. That game proved to be another hotly contested game with an exciting finish. The Aggies jumped to a 4-0 lead before Texas staged a comeback in the ninth inning to tie the game up.

It would all be for not as Michael Barash sent a ball over the fences to boost the Aggies to a 5-4 victory. The postgame celebration, again with some Aggies throwing the horns down, got too close to the Longhorn dugout for some players liking, and a hearty disagreement ensued on the field after the game.

Pretty heated for two teams that rarely get to play.

“That was a tough game,” Texas first baseman Kacy Clemens said. “We came back, tied it up, and put some pressure on them. I want to know if they’re over us knocking them out of the regional my freshman year. That’s what I want to know. Hopefully they’re not over that. We’re excited for them to come in here. Should be a good ballgame. They’re a good team and we’re going to give our best.

Texas head coach David Pierce joked with reporters about the A&M game following a 10-5 victory over UCLA on Sunday.

“It’s just another midweek game,” Pierce said jokingly. “It’s always fun. Any time you match up with a historical rival, it just gives you a little bit more energy. The crowd makes it even more so. It’s going to be fun. I know we’ll come out ready to play. We’re just going to have to control emotions.”

This matchup is big for both teams, as it presents an opportunity for an emotional springboard into conference play.

It’s a great rivalry and we’re looking forward to it,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said. There will be a lot of people in the stands. We need to continue to play well and that will be a great challenge. That’s the biggest thing, we need to play well looking into starting SEC play next weekend.

The burnt orange side echoed Childress’ thoughts.

It’s a rivalry that everybody wants to see,” Clemens said. I grew up watching it. All of yall grew up watching it too if y’allare Horns fans. It’s definitely fun. I’m glad to be able to say I was a part of this rivalry. That’s something that’s very special to me.

Although fans may show indifference to what was once their in-state rival, both sides are ready for the opportunity to play. They know, however, this game will be a test on keeping emotions in check.

“It’s a big rivalry game, but we can’t make it any more than it is,” Aggie infielder Braden Shewmake said. “It’s going to be another game. There’s going to be a lot of emotions. We’re going to have to control that and play our game. If we do that, we can win the game.

A&M will send freshman John Doxakis (0-0, 6.14) to the mound to take on sophomore Nick Kennedy (2-0, 1.29), whose record comes from only seven innings of work this season.

Even though the game is full of emotions, Pierce thinks his team will use those emotions the right way.

“I expect them to respond right,” Pierce said. “I think they will. I’m always anticipating how we’re going to play.”