HOUSTON — While debuting a new tag team on Saturday evening, Texas scored a knockout on the road.
Sophomore pitcher Ty Madden struck out seven batters and Texas hit two home runs in a 4-0 win at Rice. The shutout — UT’s 16th since David Pierce took over ahead of the 2017 season — ensured that Texas will win its season-opening series. The Longhorns (2-0) had also earned a 7-4 victory over the Owls (0-2) on Friday night.
“It’s good starting off 2-0, but our best thing tomorrow is we’ve got to play together again tomorrow and play hard and go 3-0,” freshman shortstop Trey Faltine said. “That’s our next thing on our mind. (Going) 3-0 is the only thing we’re thinking about right now.”
Madden allowed four hits and two walks during his six-inning start. Rice put runners on the corners during the first and third innings but failed to score both times. Owl outfielder Bradley Gneiting was then thrown out at the plate in the fourth frame on a relayed throw from left field.
Following the play at the plate, Madden retired the final six batters that he faced. The second, third and fourth batters in Rice’s lineup, who were each seeing Madden for the third time, were sat down on nine pitches in the sixth inning.
“I just kind of got in a grove,” said Madden, who tied his career-high mark in strikeouts. “With these first games of the year, adrenaline’s going but you’ve just got to trust your work.”
Catching all 80 of Madden’s pitches was freshman Silas Ardoin, who thwarted an attempted steal in the third inning. That battery is something that Texas fans should get used to.
Pierce had previously announced that Ardoin had been working as Madden’s personal catcher. The move allows Texas to rest senior DJ Petrinksy, who had his 2019 season ended by a shoulder injury. Pierce also wanted to get Ardoin, the son of a former major league catcher and a late-round draft pick by Colorado this past summer, on the field.
“The bottom line is Si’s a really good catcher,” Pierce said. “We want to play him and I just thought it’s the perfect opportunity for him.”
When it started to look like he would be Texas’ Saturday starter, Madden said he inquired about who would catch his games. Madden had wanted to just work with one catcher this season. He reasoned that “You see the greats like (former Astros pitcher) Gerrit Cole, Martín Maldonado, that’s his guy. They throw. That’s kind of just what I wanted to base it off of.”
With Petrinsky’s ability to catch back-to-back games in question, Madden requested Ardoin. That pairing began to develop during the fall. Ardoin now catches Madden during bullpen sessions, intrasquad scrimmages and actual games.
“We’ve really kind of locked in,” Madden said. “He knows what I want when I shake because it’s frustrating when you have to shake five times. We’re kind of starting to get on the same page and it feel good.”
On Saturday, Texas got the only run it needed when Eric Kennedy drove home Duke Ellis with a first-inning single. Texas finished the game with six hits.
Douglas Hodo III and Brenden Dixon both collected their first collegiate hits in UT’s win. Both knocks were solo shots over the fence in left field. Those homers were hit one day after Faltine went deep for his first-ever hit.
Around the bases: Freshmen pitchers Pete Hansen and Andre Duplantier II made their UT debuts in the shutout. They struck out three batters over a combined three innings of one-hit relief. … The middle man on that fourth-inning defensive relay, Faltine also drove in a run. … Texas stole three bases against the Owls. … Texas and Rice will close out their season-opening series at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Texas sophomore Coy Cobb (1-3, 3.45 ERA in 2019) will be opposed by Rice’s Kel Bordwine (1-3, 4.37).