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Texas opens 2020 season with 7-4 win over Rice

Zach Zubia, Murphy Stehly, and Trey Faltine all hit home runs on opening night.

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Twitter: @TexasBaseball

The Texas Longhorns put up a crooked number of runs (3) in the 3rd inning and scored at least one run in five different innings on their way to a 7-4 victory in tonight’s season opener against the Rice Owls. Behind offensive firepower via the long ball and a solid start from Bryce Elder, Texas took control of this game early on and never looked back.

Orange Coast College transfer and starting third basemen Murphy Stehly led the way for the Longhorns offense in this one. While hitting from the No. 9 spot, Stehly went 3-for-4 at the plate with a solo home run and a double — he was a triple shy of the cycle.

Stehly, who spent the past two seasons playing under the late John Altobelli at OCC, is wearing the No. 14 jersey in honor of his former coach. Stehly hit .374 as the team’s leadoff hitter under Altobelli last season.

Fittingly, senior Duke Ellis opened the season with a triple off the opposite field wall to get things started for Texas in the top of the 1st. On the following at-bat, fellow senior Zach Zubia drove in Ellis on a sacrifice fly to put UT up 1-0 early — the Owls right fielder made a diving catch to rob Zubia of an extra-base hit.

After going down 1-2-3 in the 1st, Rice took advantage of poor control on the part of Longhorns starting pitcher Bryce Elder and took a 2-1 lead in the 2nd inning. Elder hit 3 (!) batters in the inning and had to pitch himself out of a bases loaded jam to avoid further damage.

Led by Zubia, who slugged a two-run opposite field home run in the top of the 3rd inning with two outs, Texas answered right back with three runs to take a 4-2 advantage.

As the team’s catalyst hitting from the No. 3 spot, Zubia had a great night at the plate. The first basemen drove in three runs. While playing first base, Zubia had an up-and-down performance in the field. He dropped a pop up for an error, but also made an athletic defensive stretch play to secure the first out of the 9th inning.

True freshman shortstop Trey Faltine notched his first collegiate hit in a big way. Faltine turned on an 0-2 breaking ball and hooked the pitch inside the left field foul pole for a solo home run.

The Longhorns pegged Rice starting pitcher Alex DeLeon for six runs throughout his four innings on the mound.

After struggling with command early on, Elder eventually settled in and powered his way through six innings of work on 84 pitches before Cole Quintanilla relieved him in the 7th. Elder struck out six batters and allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits in a winning effort tonight.

Aside from giving up one run in the 8th, the back-end of the Longhorns bullpen did their job to keep Rice out of striking distance. Redshirt senior Donny Diaz shut the door on the Owls with a pair of strikeouts in the 9th to earn the save.

Impressive 1-0 start for manager David Pierce and his ballclub.

Both teams will be back in action at Reckling Park for game two tomorrow evening at 5:00 p.m. Central. The series finale is at 1:00 CT on Sunday.

You can catch the rest of this weekend’s opening series on C-USA TV or can listen along on the Longhorn Radio Network.

After failing to make the postseason and finishing last in conference play last season, this year’s Texas baseball team enters year four under Pierce with new-look expectations. By adding two former MLB legends in Troy Tulowitski and former Longhorn pitcher Huston Street to the staff, along with returning four hitters from 2018’s Omaha team and bringing in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, all the pieces seem to be coming in place at the right time for this program. As always, Omaha remains the goal for Pierce and this squad.