Freshmen key in Texas baseball’s 2–0 start

Nathan Han

The message the entire offseason for this Texas team has been about moving on from a disappointing 2019 season.

That mantra rang true Saturday as Texas beat Rice 4-0 to start the season 2–0.

“This is a new team,” redshirt junior infielder Zach Zubia said. “We don’t really talk about last year at all. I think that this is important to understand that we do have new kids, a lot of new starters, a lot of new faces.”

Those new faces made themselves known Saturday. Freshman outfielder Douglas Hodo III and freshman infielder Brenden Dixon hit solo home runs. Freshmen Pete Hansen and Andre Duplantier II pitched three scoreless innings in relief. 

“At one point, we had six freshmen on the field,” head coach David Pierce said. “They’re young, energetic, passionate and they play hard … We’ve got three freshmen with their first hits being home runs.

A fourth freshman hitter, catcher Silas Ardoin, had three walks in three at-bats, but maybe more importantly was lights-out defensively on two plays that Pierce called the turning points of the game in a postgame interview on The Horn.

The first turning point came in the third inning. With runners at first and third and only one out, Ardoin threw out Rice star and preseason All-American Trei Cruz while he was trying to steal second.

The second turning point was a bang-bang play at the plate in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman infielder Trey Faltine threw out a runner trying to score on a relay throw.

“That throw from Trey to make the play at the plate was huge,” Pierce said. 

The defense was instrumental in contributing to the shutout, including the two plays from Ardoin and a nice catch by senior outfielder Austin Todd in the first inning ranging back to his left.

Sophomore starting pitcher Ty Madden was the star of the night, pitching six scoreless innings along with seven strikeouts and only four hits.

“When you throw a shutout and don’t make any errors, you give yourself a chance to win,” Pierce said. “Ty was outstanding and the defense was outstanding tonight.”

Madden struggled with his command in the middle of his outing. But his defense made clutch plays behind him to keep the Owls off the board, and Madden fended off three rallies and finished his first start strong.

“Ty’s been as good as anybody all fall and early spring,” Pierce said. “The last couple of outings coming out of the fall have been really sharp.”

Texas will play the third game of the series Sunday at 1 p.m. in a quick turnaround with hopes of securing the series sweep.

After junior pitcher Bryce Elder and Madden collected six-inning wins Friday and Saturday, it’ll be a tough act to follow for Sunday’s starter sophomore Coy Cobb.

But Cobb will have the defense that boosted Madden and a lineup that, so far in the first two games of the season, has hit five home runs. Last year, the Longhorns hit 27 home runs over the course of the entire season. 

But that season is a distant memory for this Texas squad, as the freshmen and newcomers certainly showed tonight in the win over Rice.