Small ball, pitchers’ duels result in alumni game tie, 4-4

Evan Vieth, Senior Sports Reporter

Familiar faces and Longhorn traditions highlighted the annual Texas baseball alumni game on Saturday. The game ended in a 4-4 tie headlined by good pitching and baserunning.

“It’s so important,” head coach David Pierce said when asked about the impact this game has on his players. “(The alumni) make our guys better.”

Many of last year’s Longhorns made their return to UFCU Disch-Falk Field for the game, including fan favorites like Trey Faltine, Douglas Hodo III, Skyler Messinger and Silas Ardoin. The alumni team also featured major leaguers like Kody Clemens and Tres Barrera, who played for Texas in the 2010s.

“It’s great to have our former players wanting to be out here and mingle with the team,” Pierce said.

Former Longhorn and 2022 Golden Spikes winner Ivan Melendez was honored before the game with a short video and his signature walk out song “El Rey” played over the stadium speakers. The “Hispanic Titanic” won the award for the most outstanding college baseball player of the year after his historic 32 home run season. The former first baseman is now in the Diamondback’s minor league system and did not participate in the game.

Though the game was purely an exhibition, fans got to see a taste of the 2023 starting lineup and rotation. Redshirt junior pitcher Zane Morehouse and junior pitcher Charlie Hurley started for the two teams, the latter making his first appearance in a Longhorn jersey after transferring from USC. Redshirt sophomore Andre Duplantier II, junior Lucas Gordon, redshirt sophomore Lebarron Johnson Jr., junior Heston Tole, junior Chris Stuart and freshman Cody Howard all made appearances for the Longhorns on the mound.

Junior designated hitter Peyton Powell walked in the first run of the game for the Longhorns after Hurley loaded the bases with a walk and an error from alumnus shortstop David Hamilton. Hurley only allowed one earned run in his four innings of duty when he gave up a sac fly to junior Mitch Daly in the third. Powell is expected to bat in the starting DH spot during the non-conference portion of the season.

Former Longhorn outfielder Duke Ellis started the scoring for the alumni in the fourth inning. As the leadoff hitter, Ellis launched a Morehouse fastball deep to right center field, clearing the fence and making it a 2-1 ballgame. Ellis received a standing ovation from the crowd and a curtain call from the dugout.

Morehouse’s first three innings started with only one hit given up and five strikeouts, but an Ellis home run and a walk to Hodo left him in a zero-out situation. However, the starter handled the jam with grace as he forced Hamilton to ground into a double play and struck out big-leaguer Clemens.

The rest of the game featured a good amount of small ball offense, something that may become the norm for the Longhorns roster in the wake of Melendez’s departure. Four of the next five runs were scored via ground ball outs, with junior Jack O’Dowd’s RBI double being the only batted extra-base hit RBI. 

Though Pierce was overall positive about the game, he made it a point to call out the effort of the team.

“Our energy level needs to be better,” Pierce said. “Some new guys were standing around watching the game instead of really getting locked into the game.”

Apart from the effort, though, Pierce was positive about the team and is excited about the depth that the roster has.