Pearce Howard: The journey of a UNO record breaker

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When Pearce Howard first stepped foot on campus at the University of New Orleans there were far from any guarantees. A late summer signee in 2017 that happened by chance set the stage for a young man who put his name in the record books of a program with a proud tradition.

A man who was labeled as the fifth outfielder in his first fall camp with the Privateers didn’t take very long to get into the starting lineup. Through determination, grit and hustle, Howard earned his first start on February 24th in his freshman year against Ball State.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Let’s rewind to the beginning though. How was Howard, a Silver Spring Md. native found? The story from Coach Brett Stewart who is also the recruiting coordinator on staff goes as follows:

“I was in New Jersey watching summer travel ball. There were morning games going on and I was getting calls about this player from a summer coach in the Cal Ripken League who I coached for about six years before that. He kept telling me that there’s this really good player who is big, has some power and nobody has offered him.

I just can’t go up to Maryland or New Jersey whenever I want. I drove two to three hours to D.C. to watch him play that night and he was pretty good. He was facing an arm from Ole Miss who had pitched 30-40 innings that previous season. I walk away thinking this guy is really good so I started making calls and his high school coach verified everything. We offered him and maybe three days later and he said ‘Coach I’m in.”

And so it was. Pearce Howard from Liberty Christian Academy, who was all set to go the JUCO route before being contacted by Stewart, was now heading to a program that was his only Division I offer out of high school.

Just how much of an unknown was Howard to everyone? Head coach Blake Dean didn’t actually meet Howard until the first day of classes. But Dean, who hired Stewart, had the trust in him that he found someone who can contribute to the program during his time here.

Little did anyone know though just how great his contributions would be. Among them: he is now the all-time leader in program history in hits and RBI with 289 and 211 respectively. He’s also placed himself in the top ten in several other categories including total bases (437), doubles (50), games played (238) and home runs (30). Howard was named the 2022 Southland Conference Hitter of the Year capping his sterling career on the Lakefront after hitting .356 last season.

The power was on display early in Howard’s career. To the point where he became the Privateers’ representative in the Southland Conference Home Run Derby as a true freshman following seven home runs in 2018. He also made history as the first batter in the conference’s first ever Home Run Derby.

However, Howard took his game to a different level over the last two seasons. Using more of an all fields approach, Pearce saw his batting average skyrocket from .277 in his sophomore season (2019) to .333 in 2021 and an even more eye-catching .356 as a senior.

Perhaps it seemed a little bittersweet that both major records Howard broke were on the road. He surpassed Kevin McGann on the all-time hits list with a single through the left side of the infield in his second at-bat of the series finale at Nicholls. Howard set the new RBI mark as he passed Brian Traxler at the Southland Tournament in Hammond when he tied the game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with a fifth inning fielder’s choice.

Then again, for someone who often referenced being blessed to have the opportunity to play Division I baseball and for someone who was about whatever it took to help the team first, the way his record breaking played out may have been fitting.

Pearce went on to play for the Savannah Bananas in the summer and is still looking for that next opportunity in the sport where if it’s possible to show more than 100 percent commitment to, Howard has.

“I look at my experience with Savannah as a learning curve. Over there, you let loose and I’m thankful for that opportunity. I want to play this game as long as I can so whoever is taking me, I’m down to show up.”

Howard’s career lasted from 2018 through 2022 at the University of New Orleans. However, his impact on the program will be remembered long into the future.

As Coach Blake Dean puts it, “You’re talking about a guy who broke records. Those things didn’t fall into his lap, he worked for it and he cared for the game. And 10, 15 years from now he’s a guy who beats to his own drum who was phenomenal, and we’ll all get to reminisce about someone who changed our program.”

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