Pitching depth comes in clutch for Longhorn baseball in series sweep at Rice

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Photo Credit: JP Hite | Daily Texan Staff

Before the season, Texas pitching coach Sean Allen said the depth of Texas’s bullpen and pitching staff would be key for the Longhorns.

During Sunday’s game at Rice, Allen’s prediction came true. Five pitchers out of the bullpen held off multiple Owl rallies in Texas’s 5–4 win to clinch the season-opening weekend series sweep.

“The best pitching staffs in the country typically use eight to 10 guys,” Allen said. “I can see us using 12 to 15 guys. We have guys that are adrenaline junkies that’ll come in with runners on first and second and one out.”

Throughout the series and especially on Sunday, those adrenaline junkies came through in clutch for the Longhorns.

Redshirt junior pitcher Tristan Stevens and freshman Andre Duplantier II both worked their way out of bases-loaded jams after inheriting multiple runners in the fifth and seventh inning.

Stevens picked up in the win in only two-thirds innings of work in his second short stint out of the bullpen after his outing Friday, where the right-hander struck out the only batter he faced.

That’s likely the “adrenaline junkie” role Stevens and other bullpen arms like Duplantier will be used for much of the season: pitching in high-leverage situations in short stints.

“I think our staff is going to be built to allow some guys to do that, to come in and get one or two batters out and finish the inning clean,” Allen said.

While the bullpen was certainly a big part of the series sweep, it was a solid all-around effort for the Longhorns. Texas capitalized off early hitting to jump out to leads and solid starting pitching to hold onto them.

Texas scored at least one run in the first inning of all three games and never trailed in the entire series.

All three starters made good use of the early leads, too. Sophomore Coy Cobb was effective and efficient in his 4 1/3 innings Sunday afternoon, only allowing one run on six hits with four strikeouts. Pierce gave him a nod of confidence for next weekend after Cobb earned his weekend rotation spot to start the season.

“I thought Coy, stuff-wise, was good. Location was good,” head coach David Pierce said in a postgame interview with The Horn. “I really thought he had a solid start today, and I think he’s going to bounce back next Sunday even better.”

After that, Pierce went through five bullpen pitchers, and Texas faced a ninth inning scare. Sophomore pitcher Dawson Merryman, making his Longhorn debut after transferring from Midland College, allowed a two-run home run that cut the lead to one run.

Pierce turned to redshirt senior closer Donny Diaz for the second time this series. Just as he did in his first outing, he made quick work of his batters in the ninth inning to get the save. 

Now, the pitching depth that Pierce and Allen utilized to their advantage in the series will be tested. The Longhorns return to Austin for the home portion of a grueling stretch of eight games in 10 days.

They’ll face the University of Texas at San Antonio in their home opener Tuesday at Disch-Falk Field at 6:30 p.m. before playing Lamar University on Wednesday and Boise State this weekend.