Have the Texas Longhorns found a Friday starter already?
Head coach David Pierce took a calculated risk by installing sophomore right-handed pitcher Bryce Elder in that role even though he only started one game as a freshman and posted a 5.55 ERA overall.
A dearth of quality options made the decision easier, but Pierce’s confidence in Elder after a strong fall paid off on Friday as the No. 24 Texas Longhorns needed 10 innings to dispatch the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette for a 3-1 victory to star the season.
And though Elder didn’t get the victory, he was huge in going head-to-head with 2017 All-American Gunner Leger and arguably out-pitching the senior. Elder was efficient and at times devastating with his sinker and cutter, pitching needing only 99 pitches over eight innings. He didn’t walk a single batter, struck out nine, and only gave up four hits.
After giving up a one-out hit in the fifth, Elder set down the next 11 consecutive batters that he faced.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to close out the game, as Pierce pulled him in favor of sophomore Kamron Fields after Elder allowed a single to start the ninth. Fields wasn’t able to put the game away, as he gave up a single and hit a batter before a fielder’s choice scored the game-tying run.
Senior Brandon Ivey, one of the few left-handed pitchers on the team, came on in relief and ended the inning.
Thanks to a two-run double from junior left fielder Austin Todd, who was 3-4 on the day, Ivey only needed to face that single batter to pick up the victory before freshman Mason Bryant earned his first career save in his first appearance.
Offensively, the Horns didn’t get much going throughout the evening with nine scattered hits, only two of which went for extra bases, and four walks drawn. However, those extra-base hits were enough thanks to the efforts of Elder and the bullpen, as those two hits produced all three runs for Texas.
Senior catcher Michael McCann had taken the lead for the Longhorns in the seventh with his double with runners on second and third. In a bit of bad luck for Texas, the ball bounced over the fence to keep the second runner from scoring.
Still, Todd’s big swing allowed Texas to overcome a good Louisiana team that is favored to win the Sun Belt West Division once again.
The Horns are currently in action on Saturday after a 2 p.m. Central start before closing out the series at 1 p.m. on Sunday.