Patient hitting, efficient pitching leads Texas to 15-1 series-clinching win against Rice

Hunter Dworaczyk, Sports Reporter

No. 1 Texas baseball’s defense cut innings short while its offense extended long innings to roll to a 15-1 victory against Rice at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. 

The Longhorn offense forced the Owls to throw 229 total pitches on the day. Texas threw 119.

Known for his ability to put the ball in play for the defense, redshirt senior starting pitcher Tristan Stevens displayed his quick pace on the mound. Two left field fly outs and a groundout to third allowed Stevens to finish the first inning in only five pitches.

Rice put pressure on Stevens early, but the Longhorn defense executed enough plays to keep the Owls scoreless. After allowing a Rice runner to reach third in the second inning, Stevens fielded and threw out the runner at first to end the inning and prevent the run from scoring.

“Honestly, I didn’t feel like I had my stuff today,” Stevens said. “That was more just kind of nitty gritty. Knowing that I didn’t have my best stuff but still trying to be an attacker, and I think that is what got me through the outing.”

In the top of the third, a relay throw from redshirt sophomore outfielder Douglas Hodo III to sophomore infielder Mitchell Daly allowed redshirt sophomore catcher Silas Ardoin to tag the Rice runner out at home. 

“The defensive play we made during the third motivated one side and really deflated the dugout on the other side,” head coach David Pierce said.

Stevens’ day ended after six innings, allowing four hits in 67 pitches.

Pierce’s starting lineup for Saturday looked largely the same as the opener with one notable exception — redshirt senior Murphy Stehly was in at third base for redshirt senior Skyler Messinger.

The move paid off offensively for Texas, with Stehly earning three RBIs off of two hits on the day. Stehly scored the first run of the game after he drew a walk and was brought home by an Eric Kennedy single.

“(Stehly) is an overachiever and an overworker,” Pierce said. “He gives us an option to be a little more creative with what we can do with some of the other infielders.”

While Texas did not record a two-out RBI in the season opener, the team thrived with two-outs on Saturday afternoon. 

Down 4-0 in the top of the fifth, Rice was one out away from having its first 1-2-3 inning of the series. Instead, the Longhorns earned six walks and recorded two doubles to make the score 10-0.

The Horns finished with 11 walks and a 1.027 on-base percentage. 

Pierce said part of the approach for walks comes from avoiding the mindset of worrying about strikeouts.

“(It’s) much more about discipline versus ‘Don’t strike out,’” Pierce said. “Sometimes a strikeout happens and it’s not a bad strikeout. To be able to handle it with a clear mind, confidence and calmness is huge for us.”

The Longhorns are back in action Sunday afternoon as they look to complete their sweep against the Owls.