Want daily Texas Longhorns content on the latest team and recruiting information from Eric Nahlin, Justin Wells, Ian Boyd, Scipio Tex, and Joe Cook? Sign up HERE today!
After 12 games, a few things have started to become apparent for David Pierce’s baseball team.
Second base is an issue – Three Longhorns have played second base this year. They are a combined 2-for-36. Even with several young or first-year candidates in Brenden Dixon, Lance Ford, and Murphy Stehly, Texas cannot expect to succeed with that large of an offensive black hole at 2B. Stehly has only appeared at 2B twice, but he’s hitting .143 for the season when his third base appearances are included. The trio’s defense has been decent, but they desperately need to pick things ups with the bats.
Silas Ardoin is still learning – Saturday starter Ty Madden’s decision to make Ardoin his personal catcher is paying dividends for the sophomore righty. He’s pitched phenomenally and his rapport with his catcher definitely has something to do with that. However, Ardoin struggled with his first time catching back to back games on Sunday versus Missouri. Throughout the season, he’s provided errant throws back to the mound and eventually that could cost Texas. So far for a freshman catcher, he’s done a solid job at the plate with a 6-for-22 mark with four runs, three RBI, and four walks. Though an imperfect statistic, fielding .956 is still pretty low. He’s also thrown out just one of six runners who have tried to take a base from him. Ardoin is playing at a level above that of last year, but with the way Texas is handling DJ Petrinsky’s return from shoulder surgery, Ardoin will need to continue to improve.
Sunday starter could still be up for grabs – Coy Cobb’s pitching lines this year look a lot like his pitching lines last year. He’s struggling to go deep into games, and while his changeup is a plus pitch, his other stuff can fall behind. One of the main competitors for the Sunday spot before it went to Cobb was Kolby Kubichek. The Bryan native has walked four and allowed seven hits in 5.2 innings this year, including his most recent outing where he allowed four runs. Three were earned, and the unearned run reached on an E1. Pete Hansen was another contender for that Sunday spot until he caught mononucleosis before the season. He’s provided stellar outings, including a 1.2 inning performance against Arkansas crucial to Texas’ winning effort. If an alteration is made to the weekend rotation, it wouldn’t surprise to see Hansen get the call.
Reliables – Pierce said Sunday following a sloppy loss to Missouri that he knew who his best players are right now but didn’t name names. Most likely, those best players are Austin Todd, Duke Ellis, Zach Zubia, and Cam Williams. The first three were expected, but Williams has taken over the third base spot with timely hitting (Boise St. walk-off) and rock solid fielding (one error to his name). In the same answer, Pierce also mentioned he knew who his reliable bullpen arms were. Once again, no names were provided, but it’s a safe bet to think Hansen, Andre Duplantier, Tristan Stevens, and Dawson Merryman are prime contenders. Duplantier has been a revelation since a hand injury rendered him temporarily unable to swing the bat. Pierce has utilized the freshman with “ice in his veins” at important junctures, including the final, tumultuous three outs versus Arkansas. Stevens and Merryman have single poor performances thus far, but the rest of their track record is solid.
The one-two punch – Bryce Elder and Ty Madden are a combined 5-1 in six starts. Both have WHIPs under 0.90, and ERAs under 2.50. Both are pitching at a high level, and for Texas to be able to succeed this season, the two will need to continue to pitch well while the rest of the kinks are worked out. They’ve shut down most lineups they’ve faced, with a lone mistake pitch versus LSU from Elder the reason behind the pair’s single blemish. In the remainder of 40.1 innings the duo have pitched, they’ve performed well enough for Texas to win.