Team effort earns Texas season-opening win against Rice

Emily Barton

Texas’ season opener showcased a true team effort from the Longhorns. They pulled together a convincing 7-4 win over Rice at Reckling Park in Houston to start the season. 

Redshirt junior infielder Zach Zubia’s first at-bat of the season resulted in a huge play in the top of the first inning. The Longhorns got on the board with a triple from senior outfielder Duke Ellis off of a sac fly by Zubia. 

Freshman infielder Trey Faltine, a standout who played all nine positions in high school and was Pitcher of the Year as a senior, had a competitive first at-bat out of the gate in the second inning. He showed control and competitiveness, much like fellow freshman outfielder Douglas Hodo III, who was up to bat minutes later. 

“The youth on this team is exciting,” Zubia said. “We have a lot of youth we are going to preview. These freshmen are special, and they’re going to show you they’re serious and ready to play some baseball.” 

Texas’ pitchers saw a rocky second inning as junior pitcher Bryce Elder and redshirt senior catcher DJ Petrinsky seemed to have trouble working out their signals. Elder had been tossing wide out of the strike zone and hit three Rice batters. Rice capitalized on Elder’s errors and managed to score, making it 2-1.

Trailing going into the third, junior infielder Murphy Stehly and senior outfielder Austin Todd tied it up 2-2 with an one-out double. Zubia followed suit, hitting the ball out of the park with a two-run homer, making the score 4-2. 

A homer, a double and a triple already by the close of the third inning had the Longhorns warming up and moving on from the uncertainty of the second inning. 



Faltine once again had a great at-bat when he stayed back on a breaking ball, hit hard and landed it just inside the foul pole, getting his first collegiate home run and making it 5-2 at the top of the fourth inning. 

The Longhorns had a real opportunity with Ellis at the plate and players on first and second as Rice pulled from their bullpen at the top of the fifth. Stehly moved to third and then scored from an RBI by Zubia to make it 6-3. 

In the seventh inning, Stehly went 3-for-3 with his first homer at Texas to make it 7-3. The transfer from Orange Coast College played under coach John “Alto” Altobelli, who died in the Calabasas, California, helicopter crash alongside Kobe Bryant. Stehly is wearing No. 14 this year in a tribute to Altobelli. 

“It was personal for Murph (Stehly) and I. He’s wearing 14 for Alto,” Pierce said. “He played an outstanding game tonight, and we as a team wanted to recognize that.”

After pitching six innings, Elder was relieved by redshirt sophomore Cole Quintanilla, who gave up one score in the bottom of the eighth. 

“I just wanted to get us a chance to win,” Elder said. “The team is pulling for me out there, so I settled in and went after them.”

Redshirt junior Tristan Stevens and redshirt senior Donny Diaz pitched the last inning and a half, keeping Rice to four runs. 

Both the veterans and new players on the team contributed Friday night to get the win. With so much pitching talent and multiple players showing they can deliver at-bat, the Longhorns should feel confident in the start of their 2020 season.