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Arkansas 4, Texas 0: Tristan Stevens logs a solid start, but strikeouts hog the headlines

Texas' Zach Zubia heads back to the dugout after striking out during Sunday's 4-0 loss to Arkansas. The Longhorns struck out 15 times, 11 of which were swinging strikeouts.

ARLINGTON — In search of their first win Sunday night, the Texas Longhorns struck out again.

Texas was unable to overcome its 15 strikeouts in a 4-0 loss to No. 8 Arkansas at Globe Life Field, the Longhorns' second straight loss to open the season. Ninth-ranked Texas will close out its appearance at the College Baseball Showdown on Monday against No. 6 Ole Miss (2-0), which has opened with back-to-back wins over No. 10 TCU and No. 3 Texas Tech.

Texas hadn't opened the season 0-2 since 2014 and last opened 0-3 in 2006.

"Learn from today and get ready for tomorrow," UT pitcher Tristan Stevens said. "This is what we signed up for. If we wanted to play against lesser competition, we could have done that. We want to play against the best."

The Longhorns and Razorbacks, once Southwest Conference foes, had mostly avoided each other since Arkansas joined the SEC after the 1991 season. The two schools played each other four times in the NCAA postseason between 2004 and 2005 and they played again in Houston for a regular-season matchup in 2012.

But since 2018, Texas and Arkansas have seen plenty of each other. Arkansas hosted Texas for two games in 2018, and UT returned the favor a year later. Texas also was pounded by Arkansas at the 2018 College World Series. And last year, the Longhorns earned an 8-7 win over the Razorbacks at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

In its first shutout win over Texas since 1988, Arkansas (2-0) held Texas to just two hits on Sunday. Razorbacks starter Peyton Pallette and relief pitcher Caden Monke both snuffed out Texas threats by stranding a runner at third base.

Of Texas' 15 strikeouts, 11 were swinging. That came one day after the Longhorns struck out 18 times in an 8-3 loss to No. 7 Mississippi State on Saturday.

"Hitting and scoring kind of comes and goes, but approach has to be better," Texas coach David Pierce said. "I think we have some length in our swing that's probably caused by some tension and I think we have faced really good, quality pitching out of the gate. You combine those three things together and it's kind of a nightmare for us right now."

Texas' problems at the plate overshadowed a solid showing by Stevens, who was making his first start since the 2018 season. Over his three previous years, the right-hander from Missouri had never lasted more than 2.1 innings. He totaled six innings over his eight appearances in 2020.

On Sunday, he gave up two hits and fell just two outs shy of matching last year's entire workload. Backed by a three-pitch mix and spectacular defensive plays by third baseman Cam Williams and shortstop Trey Faltine, Stevens retired the first 11 batters he saw. 

"This is something I prepared for all fall. I got the opportunity and I took advantage of it," Stevens said. "It felt nice to be back out there. I know the outcome didn't go the way we wanted it, but it felt good."

Stevens surrendered a pair of two-out hits and a walk as Arkansas plated its first run in the fourth inning. In the sixth, Stevens was pulled after he walked a batter and hit another. Brady Slavens, the national junior college leader in homers last season, then brought those runners home with a three-run blast off UT reliever Dawson Merryman.

Around the bases: Hitting ninth for the Longhorns, Murphy Stehly was responsible for both UT hits, a pair of singles. ... Arkansas hit three UT batters. ... Texas will throw Kolby Kubichek (2-1, 2.79 ERA in 2020) against Ole Miss' Derek Diamond (2-0, 3.48) on Monday. ... In his collegiate debut, freshman pitcher Tanner Witt allowed three hits and a walk but struck out five batters over 1.2 innings.