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In early 2020, sophomore Ty Madden had the notion from his preseason performance that the Saturday starter spot belonged to him. What he didn’t know was who might be behind the plate for those starts.
Madden, like the rest of his team, wasn’t sure what workload catcher DJ Petrinsky could handle in his fifth year of eligibility. Petrinsky missed all of 2019 recovering from shoulder surgery, and many of Texas’ problems stemmed from a lack of consistency behind the plate.
As the preseason progressed, Madden strengthened his hold on the No. 2 role, but the question of whether Petrinsky would be his battery-mate on Saturdays lingered. Eventually, Madden brought a proposal to Texas head coach David Pierce.
He asked he be able to work with one catcher and develop chemistry with him. Madden, from just outside the Houston area, watched Gerrit Cole work with personal catcher Martin Maldonado in the second half of the Astros’ 2019 MLB season and record one of the most transcendent pitching stretches in recent memory. In his starts with ‘Machete’ behind the plate, Cole produced a 1.57 ERA and a 10.4 K/BB ratio.
“Maldonado, that’s his guy when they throw,” Madden said following his first start versus Rice. “That what I wanted to base it off of. Once I said that, they didn’t know if DJ was going to be (able to catch) back-to-back days.
“I was like ‘give me Si. I’ll work with Si every day.’”
Si is freshman catcher Silas Ardoin. There are five catchers on Texas’ roster, but only Ardoin became Madden’s personal catcher.
Since the request, Madden said Ardoin caught all of Madden’s flatground throwing sessions, bullpens, and every inning Madden threw during intrasquad scrimmages. For a battery that formed in early spring, the two quickly developed a chemistry that is becoming evident when they’re 60 feet 6 inches apart.
“We’ve really locked into where he knows what I want when I shake,” Madden said. “It’s frustrating when you have to shake five times. We’re really starting to get on that same page.”
Not only are they getting on the same page, but Madden is guiding Ardoin in his first season at Texas.
“He’s a great leader,” Ardoin said. “Even on my bad days, he’s picking me up. He’s letting me know on my good days some things I can get better at. I just love Ty and really respect that.”
Ardoin, from Sam Houston High School in Moss Bluff, Louisiana, wanted to be on the field during his freshman season. In his first two appearances as a Longhorn, he’s made game-altering plays. Against Rice, Ardoin notched his first career caught stealing at an important juncture of the game.
Against UTSA Tuesday, he recorded his first career hit with a two-run double that gave the Longhorns the lead.
Ardoin’s work at the plate, receiving pitches, and ability to offer Pierce flexibility to rest Petrinsky is already paying off for Texas one week into the 2020 season.
“I think there’s a security already with Ty and Si catching him,” Pierce said Thursday. “I think he just likes the big target. It kind of developed like that in the early spring, and we discussed it. It helps DJ where he’s not catching back-to-back. It’s preparing Silas. It’s been perfect up to this point.”
Madden set a lofty example to emulate in the American League Cy Young runner-up and his personal catcher. That example hadn’t reached Ardoin until after Wednesday’s win over Lamar.
“I can see that,” Ardoin said smiling. “Cole and Maldonado.”
TEXAS (5-0, 0-0) vs. BOISE STATE (0-0, 0-0)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
FRIDAY (7 p.m.) – Texas Jr. RHP Bryce Elder (1-0, 3.00) vs. Boise State R-So. LHP Travis Weston (0-0, 0.00)
SATURDAY (2 p.m.) – Texas So. RHP Ty Madden (1-0, 0.00) vs. Boise State Jr. RHP Mitch Lines (0-0, 0.00)
SUNDAY (12:30 p.m.) – Texas So. Coy Cobb (0-0, 2.08) vs. Boise State Jr. LHP Dawson Day (0-0, 0.00)
Senior Austin Todd hasn’t been in the field every day, but he’s been in the leadoff spot for all five of Texas’ early season games.
“I think he’s our best hitter,” Pierce said. “When you look top to bottom as a runner, as a guy who can handle the bat in the short game, and as a guy who can drive the ball to the gap or with power, I think he’s our overall best player.”
Todd has stayed in the leadoff spot because Pierce wants his bat to get more opportunities over the course of the season. That played out Wednesday when Texas’ eight and nine hitters were retired with the bases loaded in the second inning. Todd came to the plate and knocked a three-run double to the wall in right-center.
It’s one of the many moments Todd is enjoying in his final year at Texas.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen after this year,” Todd said. “I can’t control some of the things that happen putting the ball in play, but I can control having good at bats and seeing pitches. That’s the only thing that I’m focused on. Playing good defense, trying to have fun and win games, have good ABs, and whatever happens, happens.”
WELCOME BACK, BOISE
Boise State is resurrecting its baseball program. This weekend’s series at UFCU Disch-Falk Field will be the Broncos’ first Division I games in over 40 years.
How did they end up on the Longhorns’ schedule?
“I’m not really sure how that happened to be honest with you,” Pierce said. “I can’t really recall.”
Boise has three Texans on its roster: infielder Cole Posey (Georgetown), pitcher Gabriel Subirats (Klein), and outfielder Reagan Doss (Round Rock).
“I know they’ll have some good players because they’ll recruit pretty heavily out of California,” Pierce said. “They’ve had some players on their campus I think for a year.”
HOUSTON vs. DALLAS, TEXAS BASEBALL EDITION
“(Freshman second baseman) Brenden Dixon is from the Metroplex and (freshman shortstop) Trey Faltine is from Houston. We have a GroupMe (group messaging app) as we’re recruiting those kids and they commit to us way before they ever even sign. Those guys just bash each other, Houston versus the Metroplex. That’s carried over to their attitudes toward each other once they got here. It’s just created a lot of fun. They’re constantly talking a lot of mess to each other. I think that’s awesome. They have leadership qualities just by their personalities.” – David Pierce
(cover photo courtesy of Texas baseball)