ARLINGTON, Texas — Six different pitchers took the mound for Texas, but none had an answer for Mississippi State's offense, as the No. 9 Longhorns fell to the No. 7 Bulldogs, 8-3, in the State Farm College Baseball Showdown on Saturday at Globe Life Field.
Entering the matchup, the season opener for each team, the storyline to watch surrounded the pitching duel between UT's Ty Madden and Mississippi State's Christian MacLeod. Each team's ace is a junior and a 2021 Major League Baseball draft candidate and was named Thursday to USA Baseball's Preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List. The award is given annually by the MLB Players Association to the top amateur player in the country.
After Madden opened the game with a scoreless inning of work, the Bulldog offense soon began to click, putting two runs on the board behind back-to-back singles that scored runners from second. With MacLeod holding the Horns to a mere two hits over the first four innings, Mississippi State again put up a two-run inning in the top of the fourth. After Madden (0-1) struck out Logan Tanner to begin the inning, Luke Hancock, who had scored the Bulldogs' first run of the ballgame, sent a 1-0 pitch well over the right field wall to make the score 3-0. From that point on, Madden, looking a bit rattled, had trouble finding the strike zone and walked the next two batters, leading to another run.
That spelled the end of Madden's day on the mound, as head coach David Pierce called righty Pete Hansen in from the bullpen to pitch the fifth. Hansen did not fare much better than his predecessor, facing just seven batters, allowing three hits and an earned run.
“He probably tried to do too much," Pierce said of Madden. "I know he’s always going to be ready to go and be prepared. But if he had established his slider it would have made a difference. We didn’t want to keep pushing that after the fourth and push his pitch count up. Later in the year, maybe he pitches through that and we utilize the bullpen a little different as well. We are still working through how to utilize some of these guys and we’ll be a work in progress in the pen.”
The fifth was a bright spot for the Horns, as MacLeod (1-0) was forced out of the game before he could even get an out. With the Longhorns trailing, 5-0, junior college transfer designated hitter Ivan Melendez swatting a solo homer past the left field wall to begin the inning. Third baseman Cam Williams followed that up one pitch later with a double into the cavernous center field gap. Two more singles followed and soon righty Landon Sims was on the hill for Mississippi State. But as quickly as the Longhorns had gotten hot earlier in the inning, their offense went cold with (reliever Landon) Sims on the mound. The next three batters struck out swinging as the bases were left loaded.
Mississippi State tacked on a run in the sixth before adding two in the eighth, all the while limiting Texas to just six hits over the first eight innings.
Facing an 8-1 deficit, the Horns put four runners on base in the ninth inning and scored twice, but right fielder Austin Todd popped up with runners on first and second and two outs, ending the game.
“They were better than us today and Ty (Madden) wasn’t sharp," Pierce said. "I think they did a nice job eliminating his slider. I think in the fifth, when we had bases loaded and nobody out, Sims came in and did a nice job."
There is little time to dwell on the loss, as Texas gets another crack at a top-10 team tomorrow, facing No. 8 Arkansas at 7 p.m.
"I’m really proud of the way we finished out in the back end, still having quality at-bats," Pierce said. "Game One is over and we’ll move on to the next one.”