Texas baseball looks like it's going to be a CWS game for years to come

Texas baseball looks like it’s going to be a CWS game for years to come

OMAHA, Neb. – Before Texas reliever Cole Quintanilla took a seat in TD Ameritrade Park’s isolated press conference room after the game on Saturday night, he returned to the mound to pick up some dirt.

6-5 Longhorn squatted and swept up a handful of the sand mixture, balling tightly a final College World Series souvenir. A few minutes later, the 22-year-old who had just handed over a season-ending walkoff single appeared inside a Zoom square. He looked angry and proud and fried, at once.

“I just went out there and tried to put everything on the field for my brothers,” Quintanilla said after Texas’ 4-3 loss to Mississippi State in the bracket finals. “Just doing everything I can to stay in the game and give everything I had, just leave it out there.”

Quintanilla took L, their first and only this season, against the Bulldogs. It happened right in Texas’ last game, the fourth straight CWS elimination contest, the third dramatic scrape with MSU in less than a week.

And Quintanilla emptied the chamber on Saturday over 3 1/3 daring rounds (two hits, one earned race, five strikes, season-high 49 places), just as the teammates did the last four plus months. Some heads sank after MSU shortstop Tanner Leggett eventually broke Horns with a bottom of the ninth walkoff, but the prospects are still so high for coach David Pierce’s program after navigating the COVID-19 (and winter storm) minefield to survive all but two teams in the nation.

“I think we’ll show college baseball that Texas is back and we’re here to stay,” said Quintanilla, who may return but is eligible for the 2021 MLB draft.

Texas loses some important stars from its first 50-win streak since 2009.

This year’s big 12 pitcher Ty Madden looks like a top-10 pick, and All-Big 12 first-time player Tristan Stevens’ draft value increased this season. Stalwart slugger and first baseman Zach Zubia will ride after five years with 30 career bombs and two CWS appearances. Redshirt junior third baseman Cam Williams can also choose to leave after hitting .295 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI. Tone-setting leadoff hitter Mike Antico will also take his mix of power and speed to minors.

The Longhorns do not claim a Big 12 regular season title or sweep through the NCAA Tournament regional and superregional without them. And while their emigration will sting and force a careful restructuring, they will also lay a foundation for Texas’ next wave to build on.

“I think more than anything I’ve been so happy with, just the lead from Ty and Tristan and the DJ (Petrinsky) and all the older guys, Zach, they’ve just been huge,” Pierce said Saturday. “They set the standards. This group, which started last spring, began to create the attitude we were looking for. Our team in 2018 was good, but this group has started the true standard that we are looking for. ”

Texas placed three on this year’s Big 12 all-first team: relief Aaron Nixon, relief Tanner Witt and second baseman Mitchell Daly. And that list does not include redshirt novice catcher Silas Ardoin, who looks like the program’s most talented backstop in several years.

Nixon could be Texas’ next shutdown closer after recording a team-high nine saves and posting a 2.12 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 35 strikes across 34 innings. Witt showed star potential in the NCAA tournament, especially during 5 2/3 pointless rounds of victory over Tennessee, and was to rise to a start this weekend. Redshirt rookie Southpaw Pete Hansen (9-1, 1.88) also projects as a high-level starter after leading Texas in the ERA.

But Daly may be the best prospect for the gang, a Collegiate Baseball novice All-American who hit .316 with 15 doubles, 31 RBIs and eight steals while starting 59 games. He will form the heart of Texas’ offense along with the designated hitter Ivan Melendez.

The ball-destroying cleanup hitter broke a 13-team home run this season, knocked down .319 / .438 / .603 and was nailed in the CWS, recording game-winning hits against Virginia and MSU, the latter an unforgettable ninth inning. three-run explosion in the middle of pouring rain.

Among the other key travelers are shortstop Trey Faltine, a defensive wizard who has shown growth on the plate, and outfielder Eric Kennedy, a speedster with a flair for the dramatic.

Texas also welcomes a 10-player signing class ranked No. 59 in the country, per PerfectGame.org.

“I mean, the future is bright,” Pierce said.

Quintanilla joined. And while he may not be back with Texas to chase titles (and Nebraskan dirt), he fully expects the Horns to return to Omaha in 2022.

“It’s good for the younger guys to experience it and know what it’s like to be in Omaha and what it’s like to win,” Quintanilla said. “It will motivate them even more to come back next year and complete unfinished business.”


Twitter: @NRMoyle

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