The 2022 weekend rotation for the Texas Longhorns received a boost on Thursday when right-handed pitcher Tristan Stevens announced his return for a final season on the Forty Acres.
Longhorn Nation,— Tristan Stevens (@TSteve35) July 15, 2021
I think we’ve got some unfinished business to attend to. See y’all in 2022.
Hook ‘Em. pic.twitter.com/RVrDXXmJnY
The 6’2, 200-pounder from Missouri grew up a fan of the Longhorns and his decision to return for his redshirt senior season was made easier after he was not selected in this week’s 2021 MLB Draft.
Stevens arrived in Austin in 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery only five appearances into his junior college career at MCC-Maple Woods. In two starts in 2018, Stevens pitched just 2.1 innings, allowing three hits and one earned run. A second season on the Forty Acres marked an adjustment period for Stevens as he struggled with his control, walking 17 batters and ending the year with a 5.31 ERA despite holding opponents to a .205 batting average.
The pandemic-shortened 2020 season featured something of a breakthrough for Stevens as he recorded a 1.08 ERA in eight appearances by settling in to a bullpen role.
The expectation was for Stevens to maintain that role, but a strong fall camp helped Stevens earn a spot in the weekend rotation, eventually working on Saturdays behind ace Ty Madden. Pitching quickly and taking advantage of his primary sinker-slider combination to consistently induce strikeouts and avoid walks, Stevens was just short of sensational in 2021, notching a 3.31 ERA and holding opponents to a .248 batting average.
Some combination of his inability to strike out opponents, his age, and his injury history kept MLB organizations from believing in his professional potential. While that was surely a disappointment for Stevens, it’s a big gain for Texas as the draft went about as well as possible.
Now the upside of head coach David Pierce’s team, assuming that Ivan Melendez returns, is not just to reach the College World Series, but to once again compete if Texas can make it that far.