That game sure was a hoot. Following Sunday’s series finale loss, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns were able to get back into the win column Tuesday night with an 11-4 victory against the Rice Owls in Houston at Reckling Park. The Horns relied on their bats to build a large lead to go along with stellar team pitching from the bullpen that stymied any kind of Owl comeback.
Head coach David Pierce gave true freshman Ty Madden the starting pitcher duties, as the Cypress native made his NCAA debut in what is essentially his home town of Houston.
Madden had a short-lived, up-and-down start to his pitching career. Across 2.2 innings, the freshman didn’t allow any runs and struck out four, but the well-disciplined Owls were also able to work four walks and produce two hits.
Rice scored first in the game with a one-run second inning. A Ryan Reynolds throwing error from third with no outs put a runner on second base to open the inning. Despite two straight strikeouts from Madden, an RBI single up the middle with two outs drove home the runner from second, broke the stalemate, and put the Owls up 1-0.
It didn’t take long for the Longhorns to swing momentum back in their favor.
In the top of the third, the Longhorns were able to plate home five runs off of Rice by spraying the ball across the field. The entire lineup for Texas got to hit around, with DJ Petrinsky notching a two-RBI triple that he himself also scored on due to a Rice error at shortstop. After chasing Rice’s starting pitcher out of the game, Masen Hibbeler popped up to end the top of the third, with the Horns leading 5-1.
The next inning for the Horns was nearly as impressive as the prior. Texas quickly loaded the bases with just one out, Austin Todd, Zach Zubia, and Petrinsky each brought in one run apiece, stretching the lead to 8-1.
Rice was able to get three runs off of Beau Ridgeway in the bottom of the fifth inning before redshirt freshman Cole Quintanilla stepped up in relief, notching two big outs and keeping the lead intact after five innings, with a score of 8-4.
Those were the last runs the Owls mustered up, as from there the Texas bullpen came in and shut down Rice like it was closing time at a Chinese buffet. Donny Diaz made his long-anticipated debut (2.0 innings pitched with one K, no walks, and one hit), and combined with Quintanilla and Kam Fields to throw 4.2 innings of relief, striking out five, walking none, and allowing just one hit and no runs.
The Longhorns sprinkled in some runs in the closing innings. Starting in the sixth, Zach Zubia belted a solo home run to right center, his first of the season. In the eighth inning, Todd singled to center to bring home Eric Kennedy, who had tripled just before Todd’s at bat.
The final run of the game came in the top of the ninth. With the Horns already up 10-4, Texas catcher Michael McCann got to third and was brought home via a Tate Shaw sacrifice RBI groundout to the second baseman. The lead was pushed to 11-4,and after Fields struck out two of the final three Rice batters, became the final score.
In all, this game was a major bounceback victory for Texas. Though Rice is not the baseball powerhouse many Texas fans fondly remember, (though the Owl and Rice puns are still just as easily applicable) an 11-4 victory on the road that featured everything for Texas is one that should hopefully serve as a building block for a program looking to compete for a Big 12 title.
The elite 4.2 inning stretch from the youngsters out of the bullpen of Quintanilla, Diaz, and Fields was nearly out-shined by the best offensive performance of the year. Texas was able to record 13 hits and five walks, as well as benefit from two Rice errors. The only real critique about the offense regards all the runners left on base, as Texas stranded nine Horns throughout the game.
However, there’s not many negatives applicable to an eight-run victory — this midweek win should provide a nice boost as Texas heads towards the weekend.
The Horns finally return home to UFCU Disch-Falk Field this weekend for their home season-opener against Purdue. The last time Texas played a baseball game in Austin, it was for a trip to the College World Series. Though this weekend’s stakes are just a tad bit less drastic, Purdue should still offer some quality competition, as the Boilermakers made an NCAA Regional appearance last season.
The first game of the four-game series will be Friday, February 22 with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m. Central. You can catch the action live, or watch on the Longhorn Network.