Schlossnagle leaves Texas A&M baseball to coach at the University of Texas

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Less than 24 hours after Jim Schlossnagle implied that he would continue to coach a Texas A&M Aggies program that reached the Men’s College World Series championship game, he was announced on Tuesday night as baseball coach of the University of Texas Longhorns, the Aggies’ traditional in-state rival.

“What a home run hire,” Texas president Jay Hartzell said in a statement. “Coach Schlossnagle is the best in the business, his long list of accomplishments is incredible, and his track record of building great programs is well documented.

“We are the premier baseball program in the country with legendary coaches, our six national championships and record 38 College World Series appearances, so it’s certainly fitting that we hired a coach of his caliber to lead us.”

Schlossnagle has spent the last three seasons coaching the Aggies, taking them to unprecedented heights. The former longtime coach of the TCU Horned Frogs led A&M to the MCWS in 2022 and again last week. The 2022 team went 2-2 in Omaha.

This time, the Aggies were loaded with talent, and even with injuries to a couple of key players, they made a spirited run to the finals against the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers. No. 3 A&M finished 53-15 on the season, 9-2 in the NCAA tournament and 4-2 in the MCWS.

On Monday, in Austin, as the MCWS in Omaha was preparing for the championship showdown, Texas officials acknowledged that they had parted ways with eight-year coach David Pierce. By Monday night, Tennessee held off A&M 6-5 in an emotional winner-take-all contest.

In postgame interviews, a question to Schlossnagle about his “future in Aggieland” sparked an emotional response.

The question went like this: “With respect to the difficult outcome tonight, with the rumors circulating today about a specific job opening, what do you have to say about your future in Aggieland?”

“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s pretty selfish of you to ask that question, to be honest with you,” Schlossnagle responded. “But … I left my family to be the coach at Texas A&M. I took the job at Texas A&M to never take another job again, and that hasn’t changed in my mind. That’s unfair to talk about something like that.

“That’d be like you asking (Braden) Montgomery if he’s going to sign in the (Major League Baseball) draft. But, I understand you got to ask the question. But, I gave up a big part of my life to come take this job, and I’ve poured every ounce of my soul in this job. And I’ve given this job every single ounce I could possibly give it. So, write that.”

In a statement from Schlossnagle published Tuesday night by ESPN reporter Dave Wilson, he thanked Texas A&M administrators and the fans “for an incredible experience during my time at Texas A&M.”

“Although I know many will be upset with my decision, I chose to make a change to join a longtime friend to continue my career as a college baseball coach,” the coach said. “The run to the (national title) game was truly a remarkable one this year, and I will savor the memories and true friendships I have made there for a lifetime.”

In Austin, Schlossnagle will be reunited with Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, who was athletic director at TCU when Schlossnagle coached the Horned Frogs.

Schlossnagle’s key staffers at A&M will follow him to Texas, including assistants Nolan Cain, Michael Earley and Max Weiner.

Aggies keep winning in the playoffs despite ‘losing players left and right’

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

One win away from the finals in the Men’s College World Series, Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle is clearly enjoying the ride. And, why not? His team has won seven straight in the NCAA baseball tournament, including a 2-0 start in the MCWS.

At the same time, questions loom. Will slugging outfielder Jace LaViolette be ready to play on Wednesday? If not, how can the coach be expected to win a national title if he’s missing both LaViolette and Braden Montgomery in the most important game of the season?

Moreover, what will he do without the services of starting pitcher Shane Sdao, who like Montgomery suffered a season-ending injury in the Super Regional round? All serious questions that will force Schlossnagle to make some big decisions over the next 36 hours.

In his postgame news conference Monday, Schlossnagle said LaViolette “tweaked” a hamstring in third-seeded A&M’s 5-1 victory over No. 2 Kentucky. He did it apparently in the sixth inning when the Aggies scored five runs.

So, what is his status for Wednesday?

“Thankfully we don’t play (Tuesday),” Schlossnagle told reporters. “So we got 48 hours to see if we can get him functional to do something on the field. Last two weeks (we’ve) been losing players left and right. Gives other guys opportunities. Hopefully it’ll make a good story.”

The loss of Sdao to injury last week against Oregon could become a major issue should the Aggies falter and lose Wednesday’s game. If they lose, they’d need to play again Thursday for the right to move into the title series.

“When you’re down a pitcher like Sdao, that’s a big hole to fill for any team,” the coach said. “At least, for our team. The fact that we get an extra day’s rest and hopefully just have to win one (is important).”

Just when he mentioned his fortuitous position in the bracket, Schlossnagle recalled an experience that he had at another school, a memory that apparently still haunts him. Eight years ago, his TCU Horned Frogs went into the CWS semifinals with a 2-0 record and failed to reach the finals.

As it turned out, Coastal Carolina won in the losers bracket and then knocked off TCU twice in the semifinals en route to winning the MCWS title, a footnote in history that should give hope to both Kentucky and Florida, who play Tuesday night for the right to meet A&M again on Wednesday.

“In 2016 we had to win one game and Coastal Carolina had to win three, and they did,” Schlossnagle said. “So, we’ve won a couple of ballgames, but we’re not where we want to be yet.”

One of the keys to A&M’s success is, obviously, talented players who aren’t playing at the moment and staying ready just in case. Kaeden Kent is one of those players. He wasn’t in the lineup at the start of the NCAA tournament but now is playing a major role.

“It’s amazing,” Kent said. “Any time you can play playoff baseball, it’s amazing. The fans are crazy, especially at Olsen Field. And my teammates, our teammates, are ultra-supportive of everybody. We have each other’s backs, and we play for each other.

“Like (pitcher) Ryan (Prager) said earlier, we have full trust in everybody in that dugout. So it’s amazing when a team can come together like we are and enjoy being around each other so much where we can win ball games, and it’s super fun to play.”

Another element of the Aggies’ run to the brink of their first championship round appearance is resilience. Sometimes, players on other teams just get hot. Sometimes, in the case of the Oregon Ducks last week, they get hot and make a good pitcher like Prager look bad.

The Ducks hammered Prager for six runs in just one and two thirds innings in the opener of the best-of-three Bryan-College Station Super Regional. On Monday night, Prager had a chance to make amends, and he did.

He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished with 6 and 2/3 innings scoreless, allowing only two hits. A strong wind blowing into hitters’ faces aided his cause, but at the same time, he kept throwing strikes and forced the Wildcats to swing early in counts.

“After last week, as soon as I came out (of the game), there was some frustration,” Prager said. “(But) once we made the last out (in the series), all of that went away. We just won an opportunity to come to Omaha. I thought that went away pretty quick.

“But the first couple of days after, there was some thinking. Maybe a little bit of over thinking. But, truly coming back to neutral and understanding what I’ve done all year has led to some success and nothing really needs to change. There doesn’t need to be a drastic change.”

Did the Aggies catch a break when they showed up Monday afternoon with the wind blowing in? Sure they did. They’ll acknowledge it and they’ll take it. Including a 3-2 victory over Florida on Saturday, A&M pitching has now allowed only three runs in two games in Omaha.

Prager did his part, going deep into the game and minimizing the role that the bullpen would need to play to finish off the victory.

“First two games we’ve been here, that’s about how we drew it up,” Schlossnagle said. “Glad to see him get a little bit of a cushion. Also glad to see him not to have to go much further than he did. Because if we’re going to have a chance to win this thing, he’s going to have to pitch again on much shorter rest.

“So, he did a great job. We played good defense behind him. Any time the wind’s blowing like it was, it gives any pitcher more confidence to throw the ball in the strike zone.”

Coming up

Tuesday: Florida State v North Carolina, 1 p.m.; Kentucky v Florida, 6 p.m. (both elimination games)
Wednesday: Tennessee v Florida State or North Carolina, 1 p.m.; Texas A&M v Kentucky or Florida, 6 p.m., (semifinals)