A dramatic comeback just wasn’t in the cards for the Texas Longhorns on Tuesday evening — at least, not for the baseball team. After falling behind 8-0 through the first four innings, the Longhorns ran out of time to catch the Arizona Wildcats, and lost 8-6 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field .
The game was an exhibition of horrors pitching-wise, highlighted by the fact that Texas used nine pitchers in a game that lasted more than four and a half hours.
Right from the get go, Texas got off on the wrong foot of what turned out to be an early pitching debacle. Sophomore right-hander Owen Meaney was tabbed to start, making just his second appearance of the season. Meaney hit the first batter he faced, then walked the second before striking out the third.
Then things started to unravel for the sophomore. Meaney allowed a single that scored one Wildcat, then hit the next batter he faced to load the bases. Head coach David Pierce decided he’d already seen enough from Meaney and pulled him after facing just five batters.
Pierce called for redshirt sophomore right-hander Cole Quintanilla to take the mound, where he got out of the first inning jam to keep the Longhorn deficit at just 1-0. But Quintanilla, who’s been struggling somewhat to start the year, put on a show of his own in the second inning. After allowing two walks to put two batters on base, Quintanilla surrendered a home run over the bullpen in left field that plated three and pushed the lead to 4-0 Wildcats.
Pierce subbed out Quintanilla for Jared Southard, a true freshman right-hander who was also making just his second appearance of the year. Southard had a successful third inning, striking out two and getting through the inning without allowing a run. But he, too, eventually ran into trouble.
After walking and hitting the first two batters he faced in the fourth inning, Southard was replaced by junior right-hander Kam Fields, who allowed a walk to load the bases and threw a wild pitch to let a run across. A sacrifice fly from the next batter made it 6-0, before Arizona scored its final two runs of the game on another home run to left field. Fields got the next two batters out on strikes, but the Arizona was pushed 8-0.
It was also in the fourth inning that Texas decided to join in on the scoring fun. Texas got its first two runs of the game on a two-RBI Eric Kennedy single up the middle. From this point, the Texas pitchers actually started to cruise through the game. Sam Walbridge, Dawson Merryman, Tristan Stevens, and Pete Hansen all combined to throw five scoreless innings and allowed just one hit the rest of the way.
Unfortunately, Texas didn’t score again until the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Longhorns were able to open their half of the seventh by loading the bases with just one out. Cam Williams drove in two with a single to right field and was later followed up with a Kennedy single to right that also scored two. Douglas Hodo III struck out to end the winning, but the four-run explosion put Texas back into the game, down just 8-6.
But those hits were the last of the game, as Texas failed to get a runner on base in the next two innings. In the bottom of the ninth, with the clock pushing midnight and the game time pushing the Super Tuesday election coverage total run time, Silas Ardoin popped out in foul territory to end the game, with the Longhorns losing by a score of 8-6.
In hindsight, the decision to start Meaney was a poor choice by Pierce. Meaney showed flashes of brilliance last season as a freshman, including throwing five innings against Arkansas without giving up a run. But this season, Meaney has only seen the mound once, and that came against Lamar University — one of the worst teams Texas will face all season. Electing to throw Meaney against a formidable opponent such as Arizona, who was ranked in the top 25 just two weeks ago, looked like a recipe for disaster on paper.
But this loss isn’t on just Meaney, who ultimately only accounted for one run on the stat sheet. As a whole, the Texas pitching staff had its worst showing of the season. The pitchers did their best “pitching against the Astros in 2020” impression, hitting four batters in the first four innings of play. The command was horrendous, with the Longhorns also allowing eight walks and throwing two wild pitches.
The one thing I’d like to point out is that many of the pitchers used today were young, raw talents. They have good stuff, and it even showed last night, with the Texas staff striking out 16 Wildcats a clear indicator of arm talent. But these pitchers need to adjust and work on their mechanics and their delivery, because as good as 16 strikeouts are, it’s incredibly hard to win a game if you also allow 12 batters on base by walking or hitting them.
Texas continues its homestand with a premier opponent coming to town this weekend. The Cal State Fullerton Titans make their way to UFCU Disch-Falk Field for a three-game weekend series, and it should be a great matchup with CSF also hovering around the top 25 in the rankings.