When the Austin Regional finally ended late Sunday night and David Pierce joined the postgame Zoom press conference very early Monday morning, the Texas head coach was understandably pleased with the team’s dominant performance. Like his team, Pierce was excited, happy, but fairly subdued because he knows the real work is still to be done. And let’s be honest: when a three-game regional ends and you’re sitting in front of a laptop answering media questions after midnight, it’s fair to lack energy.
Then, the Texas head coach’s mood changed. He learned what Pete Hansen said during his portion of the postgame press conference when a media member asked what he thought of his young lefty’s quote.
“The feeling in the clubhouse is just confidence and just kind of really trusting one another and knowing that we are the number one team in the country, I believe,” responded Hasnen when asked about the team’s mood and confidence following the regional win. “And just really putting that mindset in our work and just kind of… that’s just the feeling that we have is that we’re gonna go out there and do the best that we can and at the end of the day, I think that’s the best team in the country.”
Immediately, Pierce couldn’t contain himself.
“I love that about Pete saying that. That absolutely fires me up because if you don’t think you’re the best, you’re not the best,” said Pierce about Hansen’s quote. “And if you don’t think you can compete with anybody in the country, then you have no shot. So you have to have that confidence. If we are or if we’re not still to be determined. But you’re not going to be if you don’t feel like you’re capable of beating anybody in the country.”
Before the season and during it, Pierce, in his fifth year leading the Longhorns, didn’t shy away from sharing his appreciation for what he believes is truly a special team. And as he spends more days and more games with the 2021 Longhorns, his already extremely strong conviction has grown stronger.
“This team is unbelievable, man. I get choked up about this team, because they listen. They’re very coachable. They play for each other. They’re unselfish. When people tell me they love our energy; when people tell me how unselfish our players look; it’s true. It’s real. And I mean, they just keep doing it,” said Pierce. “[A] guy like Zach Zubia has got such a team spirit about him, and guys feed off of that. Then you bring in a Mike Antico, and you bring in these young kids. We got a bunch of young kids out there just competing and playing their tails off. And so I’m just, I’m impressed with them.
“I told him in a team meeting today that they inspire me. They make me better. They make me want to come to the ballpark, and do everything I can to help them. When you think about it from a coach’s perspective, and you’re trying to get team unity, you’re trying to build growth and development and character. And you just see it play out day in and day out, guys playing their roles. What else do you say when you’re coaching young men and you’re trying to maximize their talents? It’s just such a tribute to our strength coach, our trainers, our support staff and of course, our coaches.”
What the Longhorns have shown at a uniquely consistent level this season is indeed a tribute to the coaches and all the support staff. However, it’s also a tribute to a group of players who have yet to reach a point of satisfaction following any game or even any specific individual performance or moment. Texas made the Austin Regional feel like a team head-and-shoulders above its competition was simply checking off a box on a to-do list.
Satisfied? Complacent? Those words aren’t in these Longhorns’ vocabulary and they can’t be used to describe them either. It’s why Pierce sometimes can’t contain himself when he shares the deep appreciation he has for this team. Being awarded the No. 2 overall seed was a tribute to UT’s excellent regular season and certainly has its benefits. But the Longhorns feel they’re deserving of being No. 1 and they’re on a mission to prove it.
“I think the only number I’m really focused on and the guys are focused on is number one, obviously. That’s our goal. And that’s where we want to get to,” said Hansen. “But I think we deserve that ranking. And that’s what we’ve done a really good job of. We got bumped down after the Big 12 Tournament, but I think at the end of the year, we’re going to show the nation who we really are and that’s the No. 1 team in the nation.”
This weekend, the Longhorns have a great opportunity to check another box on their list and take another big step towards proving they are the No. 1 team in the country.