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When David Pierce chose Tristan Stevens as his game one starter for the Austin regional, he mentioned the right-hander’s ability to throw strikes against a Southern Jaguar team who emphasized pressure on the base paths as a leading reason behind his decision. What did Stevens do in his outing, the first postseason game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field since 2018?
He delivered seven shutout innings with no walks on his way to securing the win in Texas’ 11-0 victory.
“I thought he did a nice job of being Tristan Stevens and just attacking the strike zone,” Pierce said. “I think he trusts himself when it comes to preparation and his routines, and he knows he’s put the work in.”
Stevens pitched in one inning without a lead, the top of the first. He put together the type of outing expected from a first-team All-Big 12 pitcher, efficiently getting through innings, and keeping the Jaguars off the base-paths. If anyone reached base, they rarely moved. SU was 0-for-13 with runners on.
Jaguar first baseman O’Neill Burgess was the main offensive threat during Stevens’ outing. He was 2-for-4 on the day while his teammates were 2-for-26. They saw plenty of strikes as 67 of Stevens’ 82 pitches were strikes.
“The big thing was attack,” Stevens said. “It seems about this time of the year, walks and free 90s will set the good teams in a hole. For me today, it was just do what I’ve always done and challenge the hitters and let my defense work. It worked out today.”
For a game with 11 runs, Stevens and the Texas relief duo of Palmer Wenzel and Jared Southard allowed the 5447 in attendance, the largest Disch-Falk crowd of the season, to enjoy the rest of their Friday evening. Texas took care of business in 2:37.
That 2:37 was the first time most of the current roster played in an NCAA tournament game. After the run to Omaha in 2018, Texas missed the tournament in 2019 and the 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. Of course, Southern, who only made the field of 64 by winning the SWAC tournament, provided many of the younger Longhorns with an easy opening opponent. But to play a clean game save for two out-of-character Trey Faltine errors is an encouraging sign for the No. 2 overall seed.
“We don’t have many of them that’s really played in the postseason,” Pierce said. “For them to just go out there and go business as usual was pretty important for us today. They did a nice job of handling that. The energy was different. I’m telling you, the energy was definitely different. You could feel it, but just really proud of them getting that first one under the belt.”
The Longhorn offense, after a weekend of struggles in the Big 12 tournament, quelled any potential for a monumental upset early in the game. Mitchell Daly scored the contest’s first run in the first when Zach Zubia drove him in with a sacrifice fly. Next at bat, Ivan Melendez crushed a ball over the left field fence to give Texas a 2-0 lead.
Melendez struggled in Oklahoma City, striking out three times each of the three games he appeared in. His first inning home run was reminiscent of the performance he offered all season and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Texas plated four in the second when Daly’s double cleared the bases. His hit glanced off Southern center fielder Isaiah Adams’ diving effort, leaking away and allowing three to score. Next at bat, Zubia brought in Daly once again with a double to right to make it 6-0.
One more came across in the third when Silas Ardoin grounded into a double play, scoring Cam Williams. The Longhorns were held scoreless in the fourth, fifth, and sixth, but plated four in the seventh and eighth.
Ardoin doubled to bring in Trey Faltine and Douglas Hodo III, then Cam Williams punctuated Texas’ evening with a no-doubt two-run homer to left field. Wenzel worked a quick seventh, and Southard followed the side-armer up with a quiet ninth.
“We know what this offense is capable of and we know that they got in that little slump last weekend,” Stevens said. “It was nice to see them not only get those hits but execute the short game as well.”
The Longhorns advance in the winners’ bracket of the Austin regional and will face the winner of Friday night’s game between Arizona State and Fairfield. Ty Madden will start the Saturday night game, Pierce announced in his postgame press conference.
“The confidence we have in our three starters, it’s awesome,” Stevens said.
Texas’ game two matchup is scheduled for 6 p.m on Saturday.