After catastrophic winter storms derailed the final week of preparations for the regular season, the No. 9 Texas Longhorns struggled in the opening games of the State Farm College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
In Saturday’s season opener against No. 8 Mississippi State, the Longhorns struck out 18 times in the 8-3 loss as the Bulldogs took advantage of two Texas errors and mistakes by the pitching staff. Back in action on Sunday night, head coach David Pierce’s team once again had issues at the plate, striking out 15 times and failing to score in a 4-0 shutout by No. 7 Arkansas.
Mississippi State struck first on Saturday in the second inning when Texas starter Ty Madden gave up a two-hit walk followed by three straight singles. A solo home run, two walks, and an error in the fourth led to two more runs for the Bulldogs, eventually ending Madden’s day. The Longhorns ace allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits with five strikeouts and three walks.
Left-hander Pete Hansen, who replaced Madden and will serve as the Saturday starter moving forward, wasn’t sharp after his sensational freshman season in giving up three hits, two runs, one earned, with a strikeout and a walk in one inning.
Texas didn’t get on the board until designated hitter Ivan Melendez hit his first career home run for the Longhorns in the bottom of the fifth, but Texas eventually left the bases loaded in that inning after three straight strikeouts by the top of the order.
Melendez was one of the few bright spots on Saturday, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a double to go along with his home run. Catcher Silas Ardoin also went 2-for-4 and had the other RBI for Texas.
On Sunday, five of the six Longhorns batter struck out against Peyton Pallette’s 95 mile-per-hour fastball, but Texas threatened with one out in the third inning when catcher DJ Petrinsky was hit by a pitch and second baseman Murphy Stehly singled through the left side, and right fielder Austin Todd walked.
Once again, Texas had the middle of its order at the plate in a key situation, but left fielder Eric Kennedy struck out swinging on four pitches and center fielder Mike Antico worked a full count, but popped out softly to the shortstop.
Right-hander Tristan Stevens pitched well for Texas, needing only 66 pitches over 5.1 innings, but Arkansas was opportunistic, scoring three runs on two hits, two walks, and a hit batter.
The big damage came in the three-run sixth inning for the Razorbacks when Stevens battled his control, walking a batter who advanced to second on a wild pitch and then hitting the next batter, ending his evening. Right-hander Dawson Merryman relieved Stevens and struck out the first batter for the second out of the inning, but then promptly gave up a three-run home run on a 1-0 pitch to Arkansas designated hitter Brady Slavens.
While the Longhorns weren’t able to threaten the Razorbacks at the plate over the final three innings, freshman right-hander Tanner Witt did make his much-anticipated debut for Texas and had moments of excellence in striking out five over 1.2 innings while scattering three hits.