Missed opportunities, inconsistency hurt Texas on opening day

Vicente Montalvo

The No. 9-ranked Texas baseball team struck out 18 times in an 8-3 loss at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, against the No. 7-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The Longhorns had inconsistent batting throughout the lineup and left seven runners stranded on base. Redshirt sophomore pitcher Ty Madden struggled with his control and gave up a two-out walk in the top of the second inning, which led to the Bulldogs grabbing a 2-0 lead. 

Texas managed to scrape together two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to make the score more respectable, which head coach David Pierce said was a good sign heading into the rest of the weekend. 

“They were better than us today, and Ty (Madden) wasn’t sharp,” Pierce said. “I think they did a nice job eliminating his slider … I’m really proud of the way we finished out in the back end, still having quality at-bats.”

Madden, who was named the preseason Big 12 Co-Pitcher of the Year in January, gave up four runs in three innings after striking out the side in the first.

“He probably tried to do too much,” Pierce said. “I know he’s always going to be ready to go and be prepared. But if he had established his slider it would have made a difference. We didn’t want to keep pushing that after the fourth and push his pitch count up.” 

The Longhorns offense was dormant until the bottom of the fifth inning, when redshirt sophomore infielder Ivan Melendez hit a solo home run — his first career hit. The long ball put Texas behind 5-1. 

Melendez has the chance to be a breakout player for Texas this season, Pierce said. 

“I like where he is, and he is definitely one of the best hitters on our team and could be one of the better hitters in the country when it’s all said and done,” Pierce said.

Texas threatened to close the gap in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with zero outs. However, three consecutive strikeouts ended the scoring threat.

The Longhorns tried to stage a comeback in the ninth inning when Melendez doubled to left field, bringing home redshirt junior infielder Zach Zubia. Redshirt freshmen catcher Silas Ardoin hit a single up the middle to bring home Melendez and make the score 8-3 Mississippi State.

The comeback attempt fell far short, as the Longhorns could not overcome eight innings worth of stranded base runners and untimely strikeouts. Mississippi State pitcher Christian MacLeod allowed only one run in four innings to start the game, and Mississippi State pitcher Landon Sims came on in relief to strike out 10 of the 12 batters he faced.

The weeklong winter storm in Austin that left the Texas team unable to practice together hurt the Longhorns on opening day, Pierce said.

“MacLeod is one of the best strikeout left-handers in the country, and Sims was throwing the ball 93-96 (mph),” Pierce said. “That really does make a difference when you haven’t swung the bat in a week.”