A dreary, overcast afternoon couldn’t keep the Longhorn faithful away from UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday as fans gathered for the annual Alumni Game, a part of Texas baseball’s fan appreciation day. The game featured former Texas alumni, now affiliated with Major League Baseball organizations, squaring off against the current Longhorn roster.
Ex-Longhorns in the Major Leagues in attendance included Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel and MLB free agent Drew Stubbs. Other alumni included players fresh off of Texas’ 2016-17 campaign.
“It’s an honor to go out there and be able to throw against guys like Drew Stubbs and Mark Payton and the other guys I’ve played with (at Texas),” junior pitcher Chase Shugart said. “It’s fun to see the tradition that the University has and the players it brings out and the major league players it has.”
The contest pitted the “Gray” squad versus the “Orange” squad, with the former made up of the Longhorn alumni. Alumni would play in the first three innings of the game, being subbed out for current Longhorn players the remaining four innings.
The ex-Longhorns were shutout during their time on the diamond, managing only four hits. With the score locked at zero in the bottom of the fourth, junior catcher DJ Petrinksy, playing for the Orange, broke the game open with a solo home run. Sophomore infielder Ryan Reynolds hit a two-run dinger in the seventh to put the exclamation point on a 3-0 shutout victory for the Orange.
A slew of six pitchers for the Orange dominated the Gray squad, walking just two batters and allowing no hits after the professional players were pulled. Shugart was given the win, throwing two clean innings with three strikeouts.
Head coach David Pierce was enthusiastic about the pitching performance, highlighting the underclassmen.
“I thought we really pitched well,” Pierce said. “We have some younger guys that need to be three or four-pitch guys. They’re not throwing the ball 92 or 95 (miles per hour), but they can pitch well and their best pitches really came out today.”
The most memorable moment for the Gray squad came in the top of the sixth, when former Texas pitcher Travis Duke made a surprise plate appearance adorned in jeans and cowboy boots. After striking out, Duke staged a confrontation with the home plate umpire, drawing laughs and cheers from the crowd.
“Travis Duke is hilarious,” Reynolds said. “I wish I got to play with him. He’s always up here and he’s just hilarious.”
While the contest lived up as a fun event for spectators, it also doubled as a chance for the Longhorns to get live game action and hone in as the regular season approaches.
Pierce said the batters’ hitting must improve as the team heads towards opening day. On Saturday, current Longhorns managed only five hits in seven innings.
“Hitting is such a work in progress and it’s such a confidence thing,” Pierce said. “We hit too many fly ball outs today. We’ve got a tough schedule and we’re going to play teams with some really good arms. We’re going to be facing the best pitchers in the country, so we still have work to do.”
The Longhorns now have less than two weeks to shore up their hitting and make any other preseason adjustments. The season opener against UL-Lafayette is slated for Feb. 16.