Longhorn bullpen plays large role in win over Rice

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Photo Credit: Pedro Luna | Daily Texan Staff

It’s beginning to get hot in Austin.

Tuesday night was one of the warmest games of the season for the Longhorns, with temperatures hovering right around 90º at first pitch. Perhaps the only thing hotter was the Texas bullpen, which was an instrumental piece in the Longhorns’ 3-1 victory over the Rice Owls.

“It was a good, quality win for us,” said head coach David Pierce in his post-game press conference. “To have so many guys go out and really start seeing some roles (develop) with our pitching staff, and I thought they did a great job of taking care of business.”

Texas’ starting pitcher Ty Madden went just 3 1/3 innings pitched despite allowing just one run, but lingering effects from a line drive taken off the thumb on his glove hand cut his evening short.

“He was competing,” Pierce said of Madden. “When he got hit in the left thumb, you just never know. He wanted the ball and it was hurting bad. And I know to finish that inning, his left thumb was just throbbing. But he’s a tough kid — he likes the competition.”

Madden was pulled in the fourth inning after allowing a double to put runners on second and third base with one out, despite the Longhorns holding a 2-1 lead. 

From then on, the night belonged to Tristan Stevens, Matteo Bocchi, Brandon Ivey and Donny Diaz, who combined for a stellar group outing that resulted in zero additional runs and just one hit allowed between the four of them.

“Tristan Stevens was really the pitcher of the night,” Pierce said. “With runners on second and third, one out, (he got) two big strikeouts there to end the inning. (Matteo) Bocchi was outstanding. I thought he stayed in his (arm) slot as well as he has since we made that adjustment.”

The adjustment mentioned by Pierce was a change in arm angle Bocchi made before the series against Louisiana earlier in the season.

“It was probably the best way to help the team win,” said Bocchi, who finished with three hitless innings in the win. “I tried to do everything I could, and it’s working well right now.”

On a night where the offense struggled to manufacture a rally, the bullpen shut the door on any comeback attempt the Owls tried.

The Texas pitchers struck out nine, stranded 12 runners on base and allowed just five hits to a pesky Owls offense.

“When you have guys coming in like that and just sitting down guys left and right, as an offense, it gives you confidence,” said center fielder Duke Ellis, who finished the evening with two of the Longhorns’ three runs scored. “Just (thinking), ‘Alright, if we score three runs, it doesn’t matter. They’re going to do what they do and sit guys down, and we’ll win the game.’”

The three runs produced by the Longhorns offense does not accurately depict the type of night they had at the plate. Texas hit into four double plays to negate potential rallies all throughout the evening.

Regardless, the big night from the bullpen is a good sign with Big 12 play resuming this weekend against Kansas State.