Longhorns come up just short in opening day pitchers duel in Arlington

Evan Vieth, Senior Sports Reporter

Despite quality pitching from junior Lucas Gordon and impactful hitting from transfers, Texas fell 3-2 to No. 8 Arkansas to kick off the 2023 season.

Texas and Arkansas, alongside TCU, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Oklahoma State, kicked off their 2023 seasons at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers

“I’m grateful for this opportunity,” said redshirt junior outfielder Porter Brown, who played his first game for the Longhorns on Friday after transferring from TCU. “Ever since August we’ve been fighting and battling with each other, and I can’t ask for anything else.”

The Longhorns first gained life in the fifth inning, finding two runners on after consecutive walks from sophomore lefty Hagen Smith. A solid bunt from junior shortstop Mitchell Daly gave freshman corner infielder’s Jared Thomas and Jalin Flores a big chance with runners on second and third. Smith, however, had other plans, as he retired both on swinging strikeouts, showing why he is one of the most feared pitchers in the SEC. 

Smith was dealing throughout the entirety of his start. The sophomore lasted just five innings, but the lefty managed to strike out eight Longhorns and give up just one hit while facing 17 Texas batters. Smith’s fastball was reaching 97 miles per hour, with a funky delivery to pair with it. The Longhorn batters were likely relieved to see him exit the game for junior reliever Cody Adcock.

“We had a scouting report (on him) last year, and he came out a completely different pitcher,” Brown said. “(You have to) tip the cap to him.”

Texas wasn’t ready to go down without a fight, however, as Brown made his name known in the bottom of the seventh. After working his way out of an 0-2 count, Brown laced the ninth pitch of the at-bat to deep right-center field, notching the Longhorn’s second hit and first run with a solo shot. Junior catcher Garret Guillemette, a USC transfer, followed Brown with a double off Adcock’s second pitch. Despite giving up the two runs, Adcock was given the win for Arkansas.

“I knew we had to get a momentum shift,” Brown said, “He hung a slider, and I just got a good swing on it.”

Guillemette’s hit forced Adcock out of the game, making way for graduate reliever Koty Frank to keep the Razorbacks in a comfortable lead. Frank worked quickly, causing junior infielder Jack O’Dowd and Daly to both ground out within seven pitches. With Guillemette on third, it was up to Thomas to drive in the runner. Thomas fell into a two-strike count, and with the ferocity of the Arkansas faithful behind his back, Frank delivered a low breaking ball to get Thomas to swing and miss. The pitch flew just a bit too inside, scooting past Polk behind the plate and allowing Guillemette to score on a wild pitch. Though Thomas grounded out a few pitches later, the damage was done, and the score settled at 3-2 Arkansas with just two innings left.

Though the Longhorns had chances, including two runners on with just one out in the eighth, Brady Tygart, Preseason All SEC reliever, showed why he deserved the honor. After entering the game with two runners on, Tygart retired both junior outfielder Dylan Campbell and Brown to end the eighth. Tygart finished the game in 1-2-3 order in the ninth, giving Arkansas the narrow victory in Arlington and his first save of the season.

“We did some things really well, but we got plenty to work on,” head coach David Pierce said, “This team is going to be a team that’s going to grow throughout the year.”