Off the rails.
From the bizarrely fabricated claims made by the broadcasting crew to the poor performance from Bryce Elder to the injury of Michael McCann to the benching of Bryce Reagan to the Keystone Cops routine in the field, the disaster in Palo Alto at Sunken Diamond on Friday represented the low point for the young 2019 baseball season.
For the No. 12 Texas Longhorns in the second game of the four-game series against the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal, just about everything went wrong.
Emerging ace Bryce Elder, the rising sophomore with the devastating cutter, only made it through 2.2 innings, allowing five runs, three earned, on six hits. When Elder left his fastball up in the zone, the Stanford hitters took advantage, including Tim Tawa’s home run, the first allowed by a Texas pitcher this season.
After the brilliant start by Elder, it was inevitable that he would come back to earth and it happened in a brutal and unceremonious fashion on Friday.
Adding to the trauma was the injury to senior catcher Michael McCann on a foul ball in the third inning. Since the Stanford live stream didn’t show a replay, it’s impossible to speculate about the extent of McCann’s injury, but he was immediately replaced by freshman catcher Caston Peter, the only other catcher on the roster following DJ Petrinsky’s season-ending surgery surgery.
If McCann’s injury is significant, it would represent a major blow to this team, as Peter has struggled behind the plate and there aren’t any obvious options on the roster at this time.
Are you a student at UT who played catcher in high school and can swing the bat a bit? Head coach David Pierce may want to hear from you this week.
McCann’s injury is in some ways related to another major story connected to Friday’s game — the struggles of freshman Bryce Reagan to replace David Hamilton at shortstop. Hamilton appeared set for a sensational junior season before he tore his Achilles while riding an electric scooter before the season, forcing Reagan into the unexpected role.
The New Hampshire native has struggled, as he’d struck out in 21 of 40 at bats entering Friday’s game and committed six errors. When he continued to have difficulties in the field, head coach David Pierce pulled him in the fourth inning, inserting sophomore Sam Bertelson at third and moving redshirt sophomore Ryan Reynolds to shortstop.
During the decisive third inning, during which Stanford scored four runs, Reagan lost the ball on a rundown tag and junior center fielder Duke Ellis botched a potential fly out. If there’s been one weakness for the Horns this season, it’s been in the field, as Texas has neither made enough routine plays nor enough difficult plays. Keep an eye on that.
To the extent that the news wasn’t all bad, freshman right-hander Jack Neely successfully replaced erratic sophomore Nico O’Donnell, who gave up two unearned runs on four walks and didn’t actually play in junior college anywhere, contrary to the clueless claims of the announcing crew.
Anyway, Neely made his third appearance at Texas and went 3.1 innings with one unearned run allowed on one hit and six strikeouts. Something to build on, there.
Back to the list of concerns, though — let’s hope this was an aberration for Elder, a short-term injury for McCann, a minor setback for Reagan, and some growing pains for a relatively young team in the field.
With junior right-hander Blair Henley on the mound on Saturday, Texas will try to get back on track at 12:05 p.m. Central on the Stanford live stream and 104.9 The Horn.