AUSTIN — With a legacy of live arms that includes Burt Hooton, Greg Swindell and Roger Clemens, the Longhorns realize that the greatest equalizer of all is usually the man on the mound.
But after a return trip to the College World Series, Texas’ rotation seems to be under major construction in 2019.
Two of head coach David Pierce’s most reliable hurlers — Nolan Kingham and Chase Shurgart — are no longer with the program, leaving Blair Henley as the most experienced returnee. Henley, a junior right-hander from Fort Worth, posted a 3.32 ERA last season on his way to earning All-Big 12 second team recognition.
Most expect Pierce to rely on depth during the early season until a handful of reliable pitchers separate themselves from the pack. If that doesn’t happen, then it could be all hands on deck for the entire year.
Also figuring into the potential starting rotation will be sophomore right-hander Bryce Elder, freshman right-hander Coy Cobb, sophomore right-hander Matt Whelan and freshman right-hander Ty Madden. Elder, who played his high school ball in Decatur, is off to a solid start with a 0.64 ERA in his first 14 innings of work.
There are plenty of options in the bullpen, including sophomore right-hander Kamron Fields, who got some quality playing time in the CWS last season as a collegiate newcomer and is also set to play some outfield for Texas.
Redshirt freshman Cole Quintanilla, a native of nearby Cedar Park, has done his best to prove he can be trusted in multiple situations. The 6-foot-5 righty has already collected a win and a save in his first four appearances — all without surrendering a run.
In addition to Fields and Quintanilla, Tristan Stevens, Brandon Ivey, Donny Diaz, Mason Bryant and Nico O’Donnell have each seen more than one appearance in the first two weeks of 2019. Bryant is a 6-foot-5, right-handed freshman from Austin McCallum, while Ivey, a senior southpaw from Houston, is the lone senior of the bunch.
One of the most intriguing prospects in senior Matteo Bocchi, who is from Parma, Italy. The 6-foot-4 right-hander tossed three scoreless innings during the Longhorns’ 8-6 loss to the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and could be a wild card as the season progresses.
The good news is there’s still some time to figure out who will figure into the mix when Big 12 play rolls around. Texas is set to open conference play in Austin on March 15-17 with a three-game series against Texas Tech.
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