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Texas right-hander Ty Madden begins every start with a rendition of the classic country song Highwayman by the legendary foursome of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson.
Madden is no outlaw, sailor, dam builder, or astronaut, but he is a damn fine pitcher. His fastball sits in the high 90s and sometimes touches 100 mph. His slider works in concert with the heater and draws foolish swings and misses.
After the 2021 draft, Madden might not be around and around and around and around and around and around wearing burnt orange and pitching on Friday nights. If that’s the case, in what could have been the projected first-rounder’s final start at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, he left it all on the mound in Texas’ super regional game one win over South Florida.
“It was special, you know?” Madden said of his outing. “It’s been a crazy three years. I think people have definitely seen the lows and the highs. I don’t know. It was definitely special. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
His career has been tumultuous, or “crazy” as he put it. His first season was Texas’ dismal 27-27, postseason-less 2019 campaign. 2020 was supposed to be a coming out party for the then-No. 2 starter. That party was canceled after 17 games.
This year was when Madden made a name for himself. That he assuredly did Friday after Friday after Friday, and once again on Saturday with plenty on the line.
“You don’t want to draw it up this way, but it’s been a great three years and we’re not done yet,” Madden said.
Madden pitched 6.2 innings of shutout baseball, allowing three hits, walking four, and striking out nine. The Big 12 pitcher of the year was replaced with two outs in the seventh by Tanner Witt. Rather than give the ball to David Pierce, the Texas skipper told Madden to give the ball to the freshman reliever himself. After hugs to every infielder, Madden strolled back to the dugout to a thunderous cheer from 7180 at the Disch. He embraced No. 2 starter Tristan Stevens. He took a curtain call.
“What the kid has done for our team, his leadership, and his work ethic has helped mold this culture and helped younger players and helped older players,” Pierce said. “And just been such an ambassador of our program and our staff. For him to go out tonight, lay it on the line, give everything he had, again, just can’t ask for anything else from him.”
Madden’s fastball may have elite velocity, but during the early portions of his outing he was struggling to command the 95-96 mph pitch. What was working was his slider, which sits around 86-87 mph and made Bull hitters look foolish.
“They had some hard contact early and I wasn’t really getting much off the plate,” Madden said. “They were really struggling with the slider and it’s been my best pitch all year. In games like that, you can’t take a pitch for granted. I had a lot of confidence in my slider and just kept going back to it and kept having good results.”
Witt allowed the tying run to score in the ninth inning, taking away the chance for Madden to earn one more victory at the Disch. But Madden was happy to see Eric Kennedy’s walk-off double put Texas one game away from a 37th trip to Omaha.
“It definitely was crazy, but I don’t think there was a split second where anyone in that dugout thought we were going to lose that game,” Madden said.
Madden did not make any commitments either way to his future following the game, saying he’ll see what it holds. But it’s difficult envision a scenario where the right-hander from Cy-Ranch returns to the Forty Acres. Especially when after the game and after the Disch had emptied out, Madden emerged from the dugout to and walked behind home plate.
He and two teammates went and sat against the backstop. What they discussed is something only they know, but it was time spent reminiscing upon the three years Madden has spent in Austin, pitching at the Disch, and working constantly to get where he is now.
Before walking off, Madden did something he’s never done at Texas. He stepped into the batter’s box, gave a simulated swing, and envisioned a ball sailing over the fence.
One person who has worked with Madden every step of the way is catcher Silas Ardoin. In recent years, Madden said he wanted to replicate the relationship former Houston Astro battery-mates Gerrit Cole and Martin Maldonado had during Cole’s sizzling run in Houston. Ardoin saw the work Madden put in every day to embody Cole’s work ethic and effectiveness.
“Ty took me under his wing whenever I got here,” Ardoin said Friday. “I’m very thankful for him. It’s been a pleasure working with him. He’s really taught me a lot of things as far as work and just how to go about college baseball. It’s been really fun, and I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done.”
The work led to first-team All-Big 12 honors, Big 12 pitcher of the year honors, and Golden Spikes semi-finalist recognition for Madden. It led him to be the arm Texas turns to when it wants to take game one of a series. He’s a key factor behind Texas being the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and on the brink of a trip to the College World Series.
If his best was on display for one final time at the Disch, it was a memorable way to say goodbye to his home park.
“He will represent himself, his family, our program, and our university very well,” Pierce said Friday. Very proud of Ty, and can’t say enough about him.”