Texas completed their sweep over Cal State Fullerton as they put together an impressive performances on Saturday and Sunday. These games showed the different strengths of the team as they near conference play. Saturday included a display of the resiliency of the pitching staff, while Sunday boasted an explosive offensive performance.
Saturday: Texas Wins, 4-3
Game 2 of the Augie Series provided more scoring early on than the Friday night opener. While Fullerton opened things up with 1 run in the top of the 2nd, Texas responded immediately with 3 runs in the bottom of the 2nd.
Again on Saturday, Texas starter Ty Madden did not have his best stuff. Madden was not efficient, allowing 7 hits in his 4 innings of work. This translated into 3 runs for the Titans, which was enough to tie the game. Madden’s pitch count also grew high, as he was at 74 pitches through the first 4 innings.
But what was not known was that Madden was sick coming into the game. Coach Pierce shared, stating, “Ty struggled a little bit with his health after 4 innings. When he came out he went straight to the trash can and threw up. So he was not feeling well, and I did not really know about it until about the 3rd (inning). So you could tell a little bit, (that) it was flat, (and) not as sharp. But that is what our guys do; they grind it out.” Despite Madden’s struggles, he managed to keep the Longhorns in the game with 5 strikeouts and just 1 walk.
Texas’ relievers were able to stay sharp, as Pete Hansen came in for 3.2 innings and allowed just 2 hits and 1 walk on 46 pitches. He also added 2 strikeouts to his season total of 18. Tristan Stevens relieved Hansen after his 4-pitch walk in the 8th inning, and threw a 4-pitch strikeout to end the inning, capitalizing on his situational opportunity. Andre Duplantier came in for the save, which he completed in 14 pitches that included two strikeouts. Duplantier has apparently been keyed with a certain nickname because of his stone-cold composure. Hansen went on to say, “We call him ‘The Butcher’ because he slices and dices.”
Offensively the Longhorns got crankingd early. They opened up in the 2nd inning, scoring 3-runs to respond to Fullerton’s 1 run in the top half of the inning. Trey Faltine started the offensive run with an infield single, 1 of 6 infield singles on the day. Eric Kennedy stayed hot by following up with a bunt for a base-hit; Kennedy finished with 2 bunt singles Saturday. After a Silas Ardoin HBP, a Peyton Powell infield RBI left runners on 2nd and 3rd base with 1 out. Murphy Stehly continued his clutch hitting as of late, hitting a double down the left-field line to scores two of those runs, bringing the Longhorns’ run total to 3.
This big inning was a great start for the team, as well as another indicative moment of success for Stehly. His hitting as of late has been surprising, but great for the team. Coach Pierce spoke on the anomaly of Stehly’s success, saying, “He is so unassuming that he is so good…. (Stehly) has got the great ability of moving to the next pitch. He does not look back on a bad swing or a bad call. He has got the ability to move to the next pitch.” While Stehly has continued to put together base hits and quality performances, he has continued to earn himself playing time.
The Longhorns took the lead in the 6th inning on a sequence of some characteristic Augie Garrido small-ball. After Douglas Hodo was walked, Stehly put down a sacrifice bunt that moved Stehly to second base. Austin Todd came up after Stehly and hit an RBI single to left field that scored Hodo, giving Texas the 4-3 lead.
Austin Todd doing Austin Todd things.
4-3 Texas at the bottom of the 8th. pic.twitter.com/8DBYNNfrWc
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) March 7, 2020
The team baseball was a continuation of the performance in the 6th inning on Friday, which saw the Longhorns score 6 runs. Although Texas could not keep get much else going offensively the rest of the game, they did just enough to get the win with support of the solid pitching performance.
Sunday: Texas Wins, 8-4
Texas started off strong offensively, and put together 4 hits in the first inning to produce 3 runs. Coy Cobb was not able to maintain this lead early on, as his struggles led to just 1.1 innings of work. After allowing a hit and a walk in the first inning, Cobb gave up 2 walks, a HBP and had an error in the 2nd inning before he was replaced by Tristan Stevens. The 34-pitch outing was the worst outing for Cobb, and gave head coach David Pierce a reason to be hesitant moving forward. “The first couple of outings, you are not concerned. But when it becomes more consistent then you have got to address it; and we have a guy (Pete Hansen) waiting in the wings,” said Pierce when asked about Cobb.
Luckily, the Longhorns got a gem of a performance from Dawson Merryman. Merryman had his longest performance as a Longhorn, throwing 4 complete innings and only allowing 1 hit on 50 pitches. After the game, Merryman was asked what his thoughts were on shutout performance. “I felt good; I could have kept going if I had to.” With the length of his performance and consistency throughout it, there were some question postgame about whether Merryman could be a possible candidate for a starting role. But it seems he fits in better as a long-term relief guy for now.
Merryman may not have had the opportunity to pitch this long if Stevens was able to pitch longer. Stevens relieved Cobb after his rough outing, and did well in his 0.2 innings of work. Over 8 pitches he allowed 1 hit and limited the damage from Fullerton. Stevens did come back out to pitch in the 3rd inning, but injured his leg in warm-ups. It did not create reason for concern for Pierce, who thought he should be alright. “Tristan is fine, he just has a little bit of tightness in his hamstring. (The substitution) was just precautious,” said Pierce.
The offense was active Sunday, scoring in all but 3 innings. The Longhorns saw 5 players with multi-hit games, including Austin Todd with his team-leading 3 hits, including his first home run of the season. Duke Ellis, Trey Faltine, Eric Kennedy and Peyton Powell each had 2 hits Sunday.
The most notable of the 2-hit performances was from Powell, who hit his 3rd double of the season and hit his first career home run for Texas.
More like Peyton Powerful, right? pic.twitter.com/b8jcujxTEt
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) March 8, 2020
This was the power that the coaches knew Powell had, so it was welcoming to see him hit his first home run against the wind in right field on Sunday. All of Powell’s hits have been for extra bases, which is a sign of the power he will continue to develop as he progresses in the program. As Powell continues to hit well, it will be interesting to watch who else competes with him for the DH spot moving forward.
One notable storyline from Sunday was that Andre Duplantier had his first chance to play in the field and hit this season. He struggled at the plate, but it was his first time getting back into the feel of hitting since his hand was injured. “It looked like it was his first day. (Today) Was just a timing issue,” said David Pierce. The optimism with Duplantier should help him get back into his groove of swinging the bat sooner rather than later.
The 3-game sweep over Cal State Fullerton sweep marks a great weekend for Texas as they bounced back from their 1-2 Shriners College Classic performance. Texas will look to build on this streak against Abilene Christian on Wednesday at 6:30 PM, which you can watch on the Longhorn Network or listen to on 104.9 FM The Horn.
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