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Life is good for Texas head coach David Pierce.
On Sunday morning, he woke up at 4:30 a.m. to begin preparation for the final game of a series with Abilene Christian. By 6 a.m., he reviewed his team’s 3-1 Saturday victory over the Wildcats, and by 8:30 a.m. he was in the clubhouse at UFCU Disch-Falk Field ahead of an attempt to sweep the weekend.
Pierce said Sunday showing up to work provides an adrenaline rush, and it’s easy to see why. Texas has been fantastic in every facet during the win streak and even in games prior. Whether it’s Ty Madden throwing 99 mph on Fridays, Tristan Stevens issuing zero walks in another Saturday start, or Mike Antico and Zach Zubia adding homers in sweep-clinching routs, Pierce has good reason to walk into his office with excitement on a daily basis.
“I said it at the beginning of the year that this team is different,” Pierce said Sunday. “I also said I had no idea how many games we’re going to win, but every single day if we continue to do what we’re doing, I like our chances.”
He paused for a moment before cracking a smile and sharing a sentiment anyone associated with Texas baseball is feeling during the current hot stretch: “And I’m having a blast.”
Texas won its 13th-straight contest Sunday with an 11-1 run rule victory over ACU. The win looked similar to Friday’s 18-0 win when the Horns overpowered the Wildcat staff visiting during a Big 12 off week.
The accomplishment of 13-straight isn’t lost on Pierce even if it occurred against a handful of mid-major teams and conference mates sitting near the bottom of the Big 12 standings. Texas’ opponents prepare. Texas’ opponents don’t want to become the next victim of the stampede. Even if it is ACU or other lowly Big 12 teams, it’s a difficult accomplishment Pierce made sure to recognize Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t care if you’re playing Our Lady of the Foul Line, it doesn’t matter,” Pierce said. “To win 13-straight is tough to do. As you guys know, in our sport, anything can happen. The best team doesn’t always win.”
But Texas has been the better team in 13 consecutive outings and 30 out of 38 times in 2021. The Longhorns are tied with TCU for the lead in the Big 12 with important series against top 25 teams in Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and the Horned Frogs still on the schedule.
Those teams will prove to be far more difficult challenges than opponents like Abilene Christian, Nevada, and even Kansas State. But according to Pierce, the team doesn’t prepare differently depending on its opponent. If the No. 1 team or the No. 297 team is in the opposing dugout, Texas brings the same level of focus to its preparation on a consistent basis.
“We didn’t feel like we were playing a team that was inferior to us,” Pierce said. “We were in competition. That was nice to see. I’m glad we’ve had some really tough games in this stretch as well. I think it’s really tough for college students to get up every single day, knowing the other team is tired of getting their brains beat in, and then do everything possible to come at you.”
Another reason Pierce has to be enthused with his team? They work hard. Almost too hard. Pierce mentioned he was in the clubhouse by 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. Antico mentioned to reporters he and other Longhorns were at the Disch by 8 a.m. with other assistant coaches throwing batting practice.
That’s a lot of work for a college baseball team, and Pierce understands his responsibilities include reigning in just as much as spurring on.
“We want to make sure they’re also taking care of their bodies as their putting their time in,” Pierce said. “Like I think I’ve told y’all before, it’s really my job to help control that. If we need to cut back reps on our BP work or our fungo work, that’s what we need to do.”
At the same time, the work is important. It’s how his team became one of few Division I schools to accumulate 30 wins this season.
In addition to Texas’ continued physical development, Pierce’s squad has developed mentally, too. He mentioned the camaraderie in the clubhouse amid the extra work. The volume of games in any baseball season, professional or amateur, is tough. To continue to be locked in and do the necessary work is a testament to why Pierce has enjoyed being around this group so much.
“The confidence is good,” Pierce said. “I think there’s a team attitude. I don’t like the word arrogance, I like the word, maybe an ‘ego’ as a team as opposed to individual egos. I like where we are as a group, though.”
Everything, the off-field cohesiveness, the on-field practice, the in-game results, has Texas feeling confident. Rightfully so. At this rate, Pierce just needs to keep the team on its current trajectory, and they’ll be considered one of the best in the country entering the postseason. It’s a task at the forefront of his mind, and one he wants to improve at considering his team’s continued improvement.
Still, Pierce is cracking smiles and enjoying himself. He impersonated Antico’s New Jersey accent with reporters on Zoom. Those are things someone enjoying their job does. The next task is to keep it going.
“You don’t want to leave anything out,” Pierce said. “You want to make sure that you’re there for them. You want to make sure that you’re giving them everything you have because they are doing the same thing.”