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Texas comes up short 2-3 to No. 23 Rice in season opener

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The Longhorns looked improved over 2016, but that didn’t equate to a win.

Kacy Clemens
Texas 247

The ‘Horns fell to No. 23 Rice 2-3 in a match with low scoring and hit totals mimicking the end of the Augie Garrido era. However, the game didn’t feel like one of 2016’s losses. Bats swung away, and pitchers had poise and confidence on the mound that was missing last season. Yet, the ‘Horns came up short.

Ironically, Texas may have lost largely due to its opponent utilizing the small ball that the Longhorns lived and mostly died by a season ago. Rice dropped a ninth inning sac bunt that resulted in a runner advancing from second to third with only one out. A grounder fielder’s choice then scored the runner. The bunt came not without its controversy, as it should've been called a foul ball due to hitting the batter’s foot. The ump behind the plate was actually a replacement, since the original home plate ump unfortunately left the game due to being injured by a pitch.

The ‘Horns have now dropped their season opener two years in a row.

Here’s my instant post-game notes.

Pitching:

  • Starting pitcher Morgan Cooper definitely had the opening day jitters as he struggled with his command in the first and second innings, but he quickly locked in and lived up to his off-season hype. A two out Rice double in the 6th that scored two runs sullied his night a bit, but it was a solid outing for Coop. His stat-line: 6 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 SO, 87 pitches.
  • Nolan Kingham came on in relief for Cooper, which was somewhat surprising considering Kingham was pegged by many writers to be a starter this weekend. He looked really strong for two innnings, but gave up a leadoff single that would be his downfall in the ninth. A passed ball, sac bunt, and infield fielder’s choice later, and Rice scored their winning run. He should get more work in this weekend.

Hitting:

  • Brett Boswell and Michael Cantu started their 2017 campaigns strong with a double by Boswell and Cantu base hit to move Boswell to third. A Kacy Clemens sac fly eventually scored Boswell. Neither Boswell nor Cantu was productive at the plate the rest of the game, but the second inning hits were huge for a pair of talented juniors who underperformed last season.
  • Texas freshmen -- only 1-8 at the plate. Ryan Reynolds notched the lone frosh hit, a leadoff single in the 7th. Austin Todd made solid contact on a liner to third, but was robbed, while David Hamilton also sent the Rice right fielder to the warning track on a bomb, but was put away. Ultimately, I came away impressed with the three freshmen starters, especially Hamilton. The shortstop looked comfortable as the QB of the infield and make a crucial play where he gunned down a runner heading from second on to third on a grounder. He also had two excellent scoops and throws in the 4th inning -- he’s going to be a star for Texas one day.
  • We love Kody Clemens here at BON, and his 6th inning solo shot was big. The Clemens brothers were responsible for both runs tonight -- thank you, Clemens bros.
  • Pierce went out to passionately argue with the ump over a grounder that David Hamilton used his speed to seemingly beat out in the 8th. The crowd went nuts -- it was hilarious.
  • Texas will need more out of Patrick Mathis. He began the game with a bad strikeout where he went for two balls in the dirt. Reached base on a little infield chop that the second baseman mishandled, but there’s a lot of pressure on him to be blasting pitches into the outfield.
  • The Longhorns had a very unclutch ninth inning -- a strikeout looking for Joe Baker, a strikeout for Michael Cantu, and a groundout for Kacy Clemens.
  • Seven hits on the day compared to Rice’s four is not bad, but there’s more untapped potential to be had.

Overall I’m not mad about David Pierce’s first game as a Longhorn. I think Texas fared well for the most part, but that only makes the defeat more frustrating.

Texas and Rice will return the Disch tomorrow at 3 PM for a double header. Kyle Johnston is expected to take the mound for the ‘Horns, as Texas will seek to avenge tonight’s loss. You can of course catch the games on the Longhorn Network or 104.9 the Horn.