College baseball is finally back as the No. 9 Longhorns open their 2021 season in Arlington, Texas with a three-game weekend planned at the State Farm Showdown.
Coach David Pierce and the Horns look to pick up from where they left off last season, starting off 14-3 before their season was cut short due to COVID-19.
Longhorns return numerous key starters along with an impressive freshmen class that should put Texas in contention for their 37th College World Series appearance.
Todd, Zubia return to spearhead Texas batting lineup
Senior Austin Todd and Junior Zach Zubia return for what could be their final season in Austin after foregoing the opportunity to play at the next level. Todd led the Horns with a .375 batting average last season, leading the team in runs (14) and hits (27). Zubia’s three home runs were a team-high and boasted a solid .288 batting average in his third season at Texas.
The Longhorns also added graduate transfer and outfielder Mike Antico from St. Johns University. Antico enters Austin with a .332 career batting average and will provide depth in the outfield that was lost with the departure of Duke Ellis. Antico nabbed the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year award and has received rave reviews from his teammates and coaches.
“We heard about how good [Antico] was at St. John’s but his work ethic when he came [to Texas] was impressive,” sophomore pitcher Tristan Stevens said. “He’s fit right in with the team.”
Sophomore Eric Kennedy is expected to start in the outfield alongside Antico and Todd after batting .288 last year.
After starting every game at shortstop as a true freshman, Trey Faltine will continue to man the middle and look to improve during his second season at Texas.
“I think you’ll see a difference offensively with his ability to drive the ball and then his leadership in the middle of the field,” Coach Pierce said.
Faltine batted .259 during his first season with Texas but defensively posted an impressive .974 fielding percentage with only two errors.
Coach Pierce signed the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in 2020, with a total of ten freshmen stepping onto the Forty Acres including the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year Tanner Whitt. Coach Pierce mentioned Whitt along with Aaron Nixon and Lucas Gordon as the “most impressive” players from the ‘20 class so far. While Gordon will only be a pitcher at Texas, Whitt and Nixon are two-way players but will start out as pitchers in the genesis of their collegiate career before moving to the plate.
Pierce also mentioned LHP Caden Noah as a name to watch this upcoming season.
“This is a young man who when you look at him, you say “there’s no way this is a freshman”...but he’s going to log some innings. He’s really good and he commands the ball as good as any pitcher on our team.”
Expect to see a healthy dose of true and redshirt freshman this season on the diamond for the Horns.
Game 1 - No. 7 Mississippi State
Saturday, 11 a.m. - FloBaseball.tv/104.9 FM The Horn
Sophomore Ty Madden will get the opening day start for Texas, facing off against lefty Christian MacLeod (4-0/0.86 ERA). Madden was 3-0 in four starts for the Horns last year, with an ERA of 1.80 in 25 innings pitched. The right-handed pitcher was also named the Big 12 preseason Co-Pitcher of the Year and will lead the Longhorns rotation.
Coach Pierce said Madden is in position to be “that guy” but the determining factor will be his health. “I know what we’re gonna get out of Ty every week,” Pierce told the media in an availability last month. “He’s going to be prepared every single week it’s just going to be maintaining his health and taking care of his body.”
Game 2 - No. 8 Arkansas
Sunday, 7 p.m. - FloBaseball.tv/104.9 FM The Horn
Junior Tristan Stevens will be making his third career start on the mound as the Horns will try to build off of last year's 8-7 win against the Razorbacks. The righty appeared in eight games last season, coming out of the bullpen and finishing with a 2-0 record and a 1.50 ERA.
“My role is whatever they want me to be in,” Stevens told reporters. “At the end of the day I just want the ball and I know what I’m gonna bring to the table when I’m out there.”
RHP Payton Pallette (0-0/1.59 ERA) will get the start for Arkansas.
Game 3 - No. 6 Ole Miss
Monday at 2:30 p.m. - FloBaseball.tv/104.9 FM The Horn
RHP Kolby Kubichek will make his fifth career start for the Longhorns in their series finale against the Rebels. The sophomore started twice for Texas last season while making a total of four appearances on the mound, compiling a 2-1 record with a 2.79 ERA.
Kubichek will duel against Ole Miss RHP Derek Diamond (2-0/3.48 ERA) on Monday.