Tristan Stevens chases unfinished business in return for sixth season

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

This article first appeared in the Feb. 14, 2022 flipbook.

For Tristan Stevens, it was a no-brainer to come back to the Forty Acres after falling out of the 2021 MLB Draft.

In his fourth year of collegiate baseball, the right-handed pitcher had a breakout season that would have seen him drafted in a typical year, pitching over 100 innings for 11 wins and an appearance on the All Big-12 Conference First Team.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB opted to shorten the draft from 40 rounds to 20 rounds, making it unlikely that Stevens would play in the minor leagues in 2022 due to a combination of his age, strikeout statistics and Tommy John surgery back in 2017.

Despite the initial disappointment of going undrafted, an extra year of eligibility presented Stevens with an opportunity to come back for one last season at Texas.

“I wanted to come here to win the national championship,” Stevens said. “We have unfinished business that we have to take care of.”

In Stevens’ return to the Longhorns, the 24-year-old brings intangible experience to a team full of returning players. On the mound, the right-hander is poised but hard-nosed with the backing of a complete defense, which compels him to pitch hard with comfort pitching to contact rather than strikeouts. 

“I have the best defense in the nation behind me,” Stevens said. “That gives me so much confidence.” 

Although Stevens’ Saturday night role is pivotal for preseason No. 1 Texas, the redshirt senior provides veteran leadership in his fourth year with the program. As a Longhorn, the righty has experienced highs with wins over baseball bluebloods Cal State Fullerton and lows in the three losses to Mississippi State in 2021. In addition to falling to the Bulldogs in the national finals last summer, Stevens was on the 2019 squad that went 27-27 on the season. 

The Kickapoo, Missouri product wasn’t highly recruited in high school, forcing him to make a pit stop at Maple Woods Junior College before finding himself at Texas. Growing up, Stevens envisioned himself pitching for the Longhorns and winning a College World Series title.

“If you come to (the) University of Texas, you know (what) you’re getting yourself into, especially for this baseball program,” Stevens said. “Kids come here to get those (championship) expectations, you should know that going into it.”

If anything, going undrafted in addition to not winning the championship added fuel to Stevens’ fire.

“I’ve always prided myself (in) having that little bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Stevens said. “With how the draft ended up, that’s just another chip to add on my shoulder.”

Texas’ weekend rotation is arguably the most capable in the country with the likes of redshirt sophomore Pete Hansen and sophomore Tanner Witt on the mound. With the return of Stevens for his last year of eligibility after the heartbreak in Omaha last June, the Longhorns’ rotation is focused on getting back to the College World Series and avenging their failure to win it all in 2022.

“The expectation for this year is to go back to Omaha and finish what we’ve started from this past 2021 season,” Stevens said.