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'He's rock-solid': No. 12 South Carolina up next for Texas ace Ty Madden

Ty Madden has emerged as the Longhorns' ace this season. He's projected as the 10th-best overall prospect in this year's major league amateur draft.

After an outing against BYU last month, Texas pitcher Ty Madden was asked if he had just had his finest moment as a Longhorn.

Madden had thrown seven innings of one-hit baseball with that one hit being a cheap infield single. His 11 strikeouts were a career high. The third-year right-hander issued one walk and hit a batter in the 11-1 win.

Madden initially balked when asked to rank his first 20 appearances as a Longhorn. There were starts last year against Arkansas and Boise State to consider. In 2019, he shut down No. 6 Stanford for seven innings.

In the end, though, Madden conceded the stats were the stats.

"I guess we can say so," Madden said about the BYU game.

It wouldn't take long for Madden to issue a rebuttal to his own answer. One week later, he tossed a complete-game masterpiece at Houston.

In the 1-0 victory March 5, Madden allowed two hits and two walks. He registered 14 strikeouts and threw 110 pitches. No Cougar advanced past second base against Madden, a 6-foot-3 product of Cypress.

Back in 2011, Taylor Jungmann pitched three shutouts for Texas. That March, he threw nine shutout innings in a 1-0 win over Oklahoma State that was decided in the 15th inning. He also was lifted after the eighth inning of three additional shutouts that season.

In the 10 years since, only four UT starters have thrown nine innings of shutout baseball. Nathan Thornhill blanked TCU in the 2013 season finale. Connor Mayes had a two-hit, 10-strikeout win over Baylor at the 2015 Big 12 Tournament. Nolan Kingham shut out Kansas State in 2017. And now Madden is on that list.

"He doesn't really surprise me when he goes out and strikes out 14 and hits 98 (mph) in the ninth," Texas coach David Pierce said. "I just don't want to ever take it for granted that that's what he's going to do because it's hard to do, executing pitches."

On Monday, Madden was named the Big 12's pitcher of the week for the second week in a row. Since the Big 12's first season in 1997, Jungmann (2011), Cole Green (2010), Kyle McCulloch (2006) and J.P. Howell (2004) are the only other Longhorns to win that award in back-to-back weeks.

Can Madden make it three weeks in a row? The 19th-ranked Longhorns have their work cut out for them.

On Friday, he'll start against an undefeated South Carolina team that's averaging 8.4 runs per game. The 12th-ranked Gamecocks (11-0) boast a .311 batting average, and slugger Wes Clarke's eight homers lead the nation.

South Carolina will present Madden with his toughest challenge since Texas' season opener, an 8-3 loss to Mississippi State on Feb. 20. Madden worked four innings and gave up four hits and three earned runs. The Bulldogs are currently ranked third nationally.

South Carolina has "some kids that are going to potentially create some hitting issues if you don't pitch to them," Pierce said. 

Equipped with a slider that he refers to as his "bread and butter" and a fastball, Madden has compiled 30 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA over 20 innings this season. Opposing batters are hitting just .104 against him. He's rated by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in the 2021 draft class.

Silas Ardoin, who has been Madden's personal catcher since last season, described him as "one of the hardest workers that we have, if not the hardest. I trust his work, and his preparation is second to none." Fellow pitcher Pete Hansen and Pierce seconded that motion this week.

"He's rock-solid," Hansen said. "He knows what he's doing. He knows what he's doing at the field every day. He's a trouper. I like being around him."