When you’re hot, you’re hot.
The Austin sun bore down on starting pitcher Tristan Stevens as the right-hander delivered a first-pitch strike to commence game two of the Horns’ three-game series against the Incarnate Word Cardinals at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday. The second-ranked Longhorns accompanied gritty at-bats with a resolute defensive showing to claim the series win over the Cardinals with the 10-2 victory.
Friday night was one to remember for the University of Texas as the Texas men’s basketball program earned their first NCAA Tournament win since 2014 and the two-seed Longhorns women’s team breezed through their opponent while hosting the postseason action at Texas’s Erwin Center. One can’t help but wonder whether Texas baseball was inspired by their classmates on the hardwood as the bats exploded to amass 19 runs in 17 hits during an all-out rout of Incarnate Word later that evening. Just how fortunate are we to have witnessed this day in Longhorn history? The baseball Longhorns hit .436 in their win, a number to rival the .474 field goal percentage posted by Texas men’s basketball in their first-round win.
It’s safe to assume the thrill of Friday’s events lingered well into Saturday afternoon as nearly 7,500 fans piled into the Disch with an undeniable buzz among the burnt orange faithful. While the Longhorns fell just short of posting another run-total reminiscent of a first-quarter basketball score, Texas utilized efficiency and grit to string together a host of quality at bats throughout the contest.
Incarnate Word jumped on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning when catcher Joey Baran singled to knock in the game’s inaugural run. In the bottom of the inning right fielder Murphy Stehly cooked up a four-game hit streak with a deep double to the left-field wall to kickstart the Texas offense. After a timely hit by designated hitter Jack O’Dowd, third baseman Skyler Messinger reached on a fielder’s choice just as Stehly rounded third to lock the Longhorns and Cardinals together at one run apiece.
The atmosphere began to feel heavy in the bottom of the third as Incarnate Word’s Aaron Celestino threw only eight pitches to retire the heart of the Longhorns order in succession. After a quiet third, Texas deployed seven bats to the plate in the top of the fourth against Celestino to produce three runs in as many hits before UIW’s Chandler David, typically the closer for the Cardinals, toed the rubber in relief. Aaron Celestino departed after tossing 61 pitches in 3.2 innings while allowing seven hits, one walk, and three earned runs against 21 Longhorn bats.
David appeared to be in command as he shut the door on the Longhorns in the fourth inning. The tide quickly turned against the junior arm as the Texas hit through the order to rally a 9-1 lead over Incarnate Word in the fifth.
Despite consistent heroics from Longhorns on both sides of the ball, the story of the night for Texas was Stevens. The redshirt senior took the mound for the Longhorns looking to bounce back from a devastating outing against Gamecocks last Saturday — South Carolina limited Stevens to 4.2 innings and torched his then-0.00 ERA as they collected four runs on six hits that day.
Fortunately for everyone but UIW, Stevens relegated his abysmal outing to a distant memory as he attacked the strike zone early and often in a disciplined challenge to the Cardinals. After giving up one run in the second inning, Stevens never looked back as he held UIW scoreless until the seventh when Cardinal second baseman Alec Carr homered to left-center. Stevens closed out the inning before relinquishing the ball to Cameron Dayton in relief.
Stevens gifted the Longhorns with a final line in which he allowed only two earned runs on seven hits with zero walks, one hit by pitch, and two strikeouts. Perhaps most impressively, Stevens threw only 72 pitches in his seven innings, entrusting his defense to put together a dozen groundouts in a brilliant display of defensive efficiency.
Left-hander Cameron Dayton went on to face one batter before being relieved by right-hander Justin Eckhardt, who allowed one hit as the set-up man for Texas right-hander Marcus Olivarez, the Lamar transfer who has yet to allow a run this season. The Cardinals put two runners on in the top of the ninth, both via walks, before Olivarez secured the 10-2 victory for the Horns with a forced groundout to first baseman Ivan Melendez. Stevens earned the win while Marcus Olivarez closed out a game for the first time this season.
Shortstop Trey Faltine inked a remarkable .800 on-base percentage in the contest while going 3-for-4 at the plate. Left fielder Eric Kennedy led the offense with a total of four RBIs and Melendez followed Kennedy as the only other Longhorn with multiple RBIs — with two — while Messinger, Daly, and Hodo III accrued one RBI each.
The Longhorns look to sweep the Cardinals on Sunday at the Disch. The first pitch is scheduled to leave the hand of Texas lefty Lucas Gordon (0-1) at 1:00 p.m. Central as he faces UIW right-hander Isaiah Zavala (1-1). The series finale will be televised on Longhorn Network and broadcast over the radio at 104.9 FM The Horn/1260 AM.