In crisp performance that didn’t feature the same midweek drama as recent games against SEC opponents, the No. 14 Texas Longhorns came out with a workmanlike 3-1 victory over the Rice Owls at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday evening.
Head coach David Pierce afford freshman right-hander Ty Madden his fourth start of the season in and important appearance for Cypress Ranch product. After significant struggles in his last two appearances, Madden needed to prove that he could throw with velocity after seeing a recent dip that coincided with shoulder issues.
Madden came through, getting back up into the 90s with his fastball and striking out three during 3.1 innings of work, during which he only gave up a single run on four hits.
In the fourth inning, however, Madden ran into trouble by allowing a single and a double with one out, prompting Pierce to call on sophomore right-hander Tristan Stevens out of the bullpen. Stevens came through, striking out both batters he faced by missing bats with his breaking ball.
Senior right-hander Matteo Bocchi replaced Stevens and looked comfortable with his new lowered arm slot and increased movement, throwing 3.0 innings and striking out three while avoiding any hits or walks allowed.
In fact, after senior left-hander Brandon Ivey and junior right-hander Donny Diaz closed the game, the four Texas relievers only allowed a single hit and a single walk in 5.2 innings.
Offensively, the Longhorns did some damage early and in the smallest increments possible. In the first inning, junior center fielder Duke Ellis led off the game by hitting the first pitch he saw for a triple and then scoring when junior left fielder Austin Todd singled up the middle.
The following inning, senior catcher Michael McCann scored after he was sacrificed to second base by Ellis and driven in by freshman second baseman Lance Ford, who singled through the right side of the infield.
In the sixth, the top of the order came through again. Ellis singled, followed by Ford doing the same. Then Todd rove in Ellis when he hit into a double play.
Considering how often the Horns have had to come back with late-inning drama this season, the quick game, which took less than two and a half hours, was surely a welcome performance for Pierce.
Texas hosts Kansas State this weekend with a chance to pick up some wins against the Big 12’s worst team.