Determined to 'earn that ranking in everything we do,' No. 1 Texas routs Rice in opener
No. 1 got its first one.
Led by Pete Hansen's arm and Silas Ardoin's bat, top-ranked Texas opened its baseball season Friday night with a 7-0 victory over Rice at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in front of an announced crowd of 7,355. It was the most lopsided triumph for the Longhorns in an opener since 2011.
Texas (1-0) entered the season as the No. 1 team in all three major preseason polls — D1Baseball, Baseball America and USA Today.
"We're going to earn that ranking in everything we do," Hansen said. "As long as we keep winning games and doing the things we need to do, it's going to be a lot of fun."
Facing a quartet of Rice pitchers, Texas produced eight hits — half for extra bases. The first hit of the season was a one-out triple by Eric Kennedy in the first inning, and he went on to score the first run on a groundout by Ivan Melendez.
The next inning, Ardoin's solo homer gave UT a 2-0 lead. In the fourth, Texas scored three times on an error, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. In the fifth, Ardoin struck again with a two-run double.
Last season, the Longhorns scored a total of seven runs over their first four games. Hansen, though, didn't need all of the run support that his offense provided.
Hansen, the Big 12 preseason pitcher of the year, opened his third year at Texas with six shutout innings. He threw 78 pitches, gave up three hits and issued one walk. Relying on a slider, curveball and fastball, he struck out eight Owls.
"Pete did his thing," said Ardoin, Texas' third-year catcher. "He gets on the mound; he competes. That's his best feature."
Hansen, the first left-handed pitcher to start a season opener for Texas since Austin Wood in 2008, twice flirted with danger. He stranded Rice's Austin Bulman at third base in the second inning with a strikeout. And then in the fifth, with Justin Long on third, Hansen got a groundout to end the threat.
"Just trust my defense, knowing that if they put the ball in play, they're going to make a play behind me," he said. "I didn't really feel that pressure to do too much. I just trusted my stuff and executed where I needed to put the pitch."
Texas relievers Travis Sthele and Jared Southard combined to allow two hits over the final three innings. Rice, which went 23-29-1 last season, was led by Guy Garibay's two hits.
Key play: Ardoin finished the game needing just a triple for a cycle in the second three-hit game of his collegiate career. His biggest swing was his first. With a 2-0 count against Rice pitcher Cooper Chandler in the second inning, Ardoin crushed a fastball over the fence in left field.
Last year, Ardoin hit .239 with one home run and 33 RBIs. At a media availability this week, however, Texas coach David Pierce predicted that Ardoin would have a bigger impact in the Longhorn lineup.
"I think you're going to see a true hitter in Silas Ardoin," Pierce said. "He's a much better hitter than he was even a year ago. He came in with a pedigree of being a good hitter, and I think we'll see a lot of that this year."
Notable Number: 6. For the sixth time in his collegiate career, Texas' Austin Todd started in the outfield on Opening Day. At the plate, Todd went 1-for-3 with a run and a walk. Defensively, he ran down a long fly ball to end the fourth inning. All-time, Todd is hitting .318 with five RBIs in season openers. He recorded at least one hit in each of UT's last five openers.
Because of a shoulder injury that limited him to six games, Todd took a medical redshirt last season. The 2020 campaign also didn't count against his eligibility because of the NCAA's decision to forgive that pandemic-shortened season for all its athletes.
Up next: Texas (1-0) and Rice (0-1) play again at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. UT senior Tristan Stevens (11-3, 3.31 ERA in 2021) will be opposed by Rice left-hander Brandon Deskins (3-4, 3.88).