ARLINGTON, Texas — As the old adage goes, good pitching beats good hitting, and while Tristan Stevens pitched well for the ninth-ranked Texas baseball team Sunday night, the Horns simply could not hit, and fell to No. 8 Arkansas, 4-0, at Globe Life Field.
It was UT's second loss at the Globe Life Field College Baseball Showdown, as the Longhorns lost, 8-3, to No. 7 Mississippi State Saturday afternoon.
At the plate, it was a game that featured minimal amounts of offense; a look at the box score reveals that much. Arkansas and Texas, once bitter rivals in the Southwest Conference, combined for just eight hits — the Razorbacks had six, compared to just two by the Longhorns, both by second baseman Murphy Stehly — and only two scoring plays were recorded.
However, it was the duel on the mound that captivated the massive crowd of 17,587, as Stevens went toe-to-toe with Arkansas' Peyton Pallette.
Though Stevens picked up the loss in his first start of the 2021 season, he fired 5-1/3 innings, and looked sharp doing it, allowing just two hits. He allowed three earned runs to go along with two walks, two strikeouts and a pair of wild pitches.
"Outstanding job by Tristan Stevens," Texas head coach David Pierce said. "He went out and gave us a great start. He's earned the right to start. He throws a lot of strikes, he competes well, and throws three pitches with a great mix."
Pallette made it through 4-1/3 innings of work, but did not appear to be tired in the least when Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn sent him to the showers after he had allowed just one hit and a single walk next to eight strikeouts.
Texas was given a prime opportunity to strike in the top half of the third, loading the bases with just one out, behind a hit batter, a single and walk, but left fielder Eric Kenndy struck out swinging and center fielder Mike Antico popped up to the shortstop. That was as a close as the Horns would get, as Arkansas put up the only run it would need in the bottom of the fourth when designated hitter Brady Slavens singled in first baseman Cullen Smith.
Slavens truly blew the game wide open two innings later, as the JUCO product swung hard on a two-out, 1-0 pitch, sending it over the right-center field wall for a three-run homer off Texas reliever Dawson Merryman.
"They got a couple of clutch hits and we didn't," Pierce said. "That's kind of the way the game went."
Texas placed just two runners on base over the final three innings, and now has struck out 33 times over the course of two games.
"I don't feel like our at-bats have been very quality," Pierce said. "Hitting and scoring comes and goes, but [our] approach has to be better. I think we have some length in our swing, probably caused by some tension. I think we have faced really quality pitching out of the gates.
"You combine those three things together, and it's kind of a nightmare for us right now. But I have confidence in what we're doing, I have confidence in our kids."
While Texas fans might be disappointed by the fact that Texas is 0-2 for the first time since 2014, this was a unique way to begin a season, facing three top-10 teams on consecutive days in an NCAA Tournament-type atmosphere. The third of those comes at 2:30 Monday afternoon, when the Horns battle No. 6 Ole Miss.
"This is what we signed up for," Stevens said. "If we wanted to play against lesser competition, we could've done that."