Baseball

Cook: Dis(ch)satisfaction with the end to Texas’ baseball season

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Whenever I get into my car, my phone’s Bluetooth connects to my vehicle’s entertainment system. That indicates to my phone that I’m about to begin driving and it tries to guess where I’m headed to offer directions. The typical guess?

UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Of course, I haven’t actually been to the Disch since early March. The last game played just east of I-35 was a 9-1 Texas win over Abilene Christian on March 11. When the NCAA cancelled the men’s basketball tournament, they also cancelled the baseball tournament and College World Series in one fell swoop.

Conferences soon after axed the remaining baseball season leaving me and countless Texas Baseball fans very Dis(ch)satisfied.

That remaining season for 14-3 Texas was 38 games, including all 24 of its Big 12 matchups. We didn’t get to see Texas face a strong Oklahoma team in Norman, nor the results of a midweek trip to College Station where the Aggies and Longhorns always provide an entertaining ballgame, nor pivotal series toward the end of the year at Texas Tech and against TCU.

Head coach David Pierce, in what was to be a very telling season about his tenure at Texas, was instead told very little about a team he professed his love for. Those feelings from early March were also felt in early April when Pierce participated in a Zoom call with reporters and called losing the 2020 season “devastating.”

“I don’t know how many games we would have won because I think our league is so good this year, but I know it was going to be a fun journey with this team for sure,” Pierce said.

COVID-19 stole from all of us that journey, the “clap-clap-clap” that echoes at bat after at bat inside the Disch, the sound of Smokey the Cannon, Scott Wilson’s continued Longhorn athletics attendance, and Austin Todd’s peculiar walk-up music selection of Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”

The virus stole from us the chance to learn important information about where that journey was going in this season and those in the future. In the series-that-never-was against New Mexico, Pierce planned to start freshman Pete Hansen on Sunday replacing sophomore Coy Cobb.

Pierce gave Cobb opportunity after opportunity over two seasons, but starting pitching didn’t click for Cobb as often as it should have for a weekend arm at Texas.

“He understood that he had to get better and do some things with him mechanically,” Pierce said of Cobb. “We were going to utilize him in short outings, let him gain some confidence back, and slide Pete in there because he earned it.”

Hansen’s viral snub is the most notable of a host of lost opportunities I was ready to see play out. I couldn’t wait for my car to tell me week after week to navigate rush-hour Austin traffic to see Texas continue what was a promising campaign. I couldn’t wait to head to Lubbock this upcoming weekend for the series with the Red Raiders and learn how long it would take me to get to the Disch from a Rip Griffin Park surface lot.

Instead the Disch isn’t packed. Left Field isn’t occupied. Huston Street, who was to have No. 25 retired in his honor this spring, still doesn’t have his name on the wall. We’ll never know how far this team was going to end up, though Pierce had an inkling.

“We were on our way,” he said jokingly about the College World Series. “There’s no doubt.”

But now, Pierce is playing the same waiting game we all are. Where before he “never had one day off in my life in the spring that had something to do with relaxing,” now he’s playing with his grandchildren and casually watching The Today Show at home.

Pierce is like me, like us, at home dissatisfied that the season was cut so short.

Sorry, Dis(ch)satisfied.

– Texas finished with a 14-3 record, and the best pitcher and maybe even the best player was Bryce Elder. During his call with reporters, Pierce said he believed Elder was the only one from the 2020 team who could hear his name called within the first five rounds of the MLB Draft.

-Pierce also said he believed Donny Diaz would choose to end his collegiate baseball career instead of giving it another go for a seventh season between San Jacinto Junior College and Texas.

-Diaz was one of four seniors on the 2020 team along with Austin Todd, Duke Ellis, and DJ Petrinsky. If those three all chose to return for 2021, Pierce said he would need to cut his roster to 38 players by the first game of the season.

-Whenever the MLB Draft takes place, it seems likely to be just five rounds. I’m not especially well-versed on how that will affect the decision-making processes of front offices and whether they’ll emphasize high school prospects over college prospects with newfound leverage, but there are Longhorn signees from Baseball America’s top class who received mention in recent draft discussions. With uncertainty around so much of the draft, there is uncertainty surrounding what MLB teams might do regarding:

  • Refugio RHP Jared Kelley
  • La Mirada (CA) Whittier RHP Jared Jones
  • San Mateo (CA) Mira Costa OF Petey Halpin
  • Bellaire Episcopal INF Tanner Witt
  • Phoenix (AZ) Mountain Pointe INF Carson Tucker

-The effect of giving the MLB Draft a 35-round haircut means college baseball will have an incredible influx of talent in the 2021 season. Even if some players decide to go the free agency route this year if their names aren’t called, that should still be a very limited number. Signing classes normally pilfered by MLB teams might stand a stronger chance of having most members make it to campus. It will be better for Texas, but it really should also be better for everybody.