For the second straight week, sophomore Bryce Elder came ready to sling it. Over the course of six innings, Elder struck out six and did not allow an earned run as Texas beat the Purdue Boilermakers 7-2 in the home opener.
In his two starts thus far in 2019, Elder has combined to allow only one earned run and has struck out 15 through 14 innings of work. Named the Friday night starter just before the start of the season, he has met the task early in the season.
“Bryce (Elder) went out and did what Friday night starters do,” head coach David Pierce said. “He gave us a chance to win. He did a great job of attacking the zone and to a pretty feisty offense.”
Elder, though, will likely thank his defense after the show it put on tonight. Junior third baseman Ryan Reynolds and senior catcher Michael McCann had some of the better outings in each of their respective careers.
McCann did yeoman’s work behind the plate all Friday night long. Against a Purdue lineup that did its best to play “small ball” throughout the course of game, McCann came up firing each and every time to the tune of six put-outs and five assists. Most impressive from McCann on the night was his arm, throwing out runners trying to steal. He was two of three for the night and will make the Boilermakers think twice about trying to take an extra base when he’s doing the catching duties.
While defense has been his early season forte, Pierce says McCann is a do-it-all player for his team. Whether it’s with his glove or his bat (1-3, 1 RBI on the night) he has shown the ability to contribute in every way imaginable. Pierce said, however, that McCann’s biggest strength isn’t even on the field.
“If you ask any player on our team who’s the number one leader, if we took a vote, Michael McCann wins that vote,” Pierce said. “And we actually took a vote, and he was that vote. He brings great leadership. He’s a guy that knows how to compliment, he knows how to allows guys the spotlight. And that’s what catchers do. He makes pitchers better. He’s playing with great confidence.”
While McCann likely had the better day defensively, Reynolds had the flashier day of the two. And it could have been even better if replay didn’t exist in college baseball.
In the top of the sixth inning with a runner on first base, a Purdue batter skied a fly ball into foul territory near the fence just past the third base dugout. Reynolds sprinted to catch the ball and came away with it as he fell to the ground. Instinctively, he threw a missile to second base aiming to get the tagging runner who was called out. After further review, however, the ball did not get there in time and the out was reversed.
Reynolds, defensively, has been nothing short of a menace. He has the range to get to virtually every ball and an arm as live as you will find in college baseball. And while he has always been a plus defender, Reynolds has brought his abilities to the next level. He credits his improvement and a 25-pound weight loss to an injury, actually, that he sustained in the summer.
“(I was) kind of seeing a different perspective,” Reynolds said. “Because sitting behind it looks so easy. I don’t want to take any game for granted. Because it was taken away and I didn’t get to play. And that sucked.”
Both players are not too shabby offensively either. The two combined for the lion’s share of Texas’ RBIs for the day. Other offensive contributors were junior outfielder Austin Todd, who has been red-hot to start the season and added two RBI, and redshirt sophomore designated hitter Zach Zubia, who added an RBI himself on a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
Texas will look to bring their defensive performance with them as they play the second and third games of the four-game series on Saturday at Disch-Falk Field. First pitch is set for 1 P.M.
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