Texas’ bats took a step back Friday, but rebounded Saturday and Sunday to claim a series victory in Manhattan against the Kansas State Wildcats. After amassing only seven hits on Friday, the Longhorns tallied an impressive 30 combined hits in their Saturday and Sunday efforts. Texas made extensive use of the bullpen this weekend, using their relievers for 14.1 innings on the weekend.
The Longhorns were only able to scrape together two runs on Friday night, as Kansas State starter Matt Applegate put together a solid 5.2 inning performance, striking out six batters. Texas starter Nathan Thornhill was plagued by walks, and a running Kansas State team was a constant nuisance on the basepaths, stealing two bases and utilizing the hit and run and sacrifice bunt to manufacture five runs. After scoring a run on two hits in the first inning, the Longhorn bats were silenced until the sixth, with Kansas State building a 4-1 lead through the fifth. Despite three hits, Texas was only able to cross the plate once in the sixth inning, stranding two baserunners before ending the inning on a ground out. Matt Applegate secured his second win of the season while Nathan Thornhill was burdened with his second loss.
Saturday afternoon saw a resilient Texas offense come together to neutralize a three run deficit and score the final four runs of the game to win in extra innings. Starter Parker French looked every bit as good as his previous start against Oklahoma would indicate in the first three innings, but began to struggle in the fourth allowing a hit and a walk, including a two run home run from Dan Klein. His struggles would continue into the fifth inning, as he gave up two hits and run, making the score 3-0. Hoby Milner would again come into the game to replace a struggling starter, and struck out the first batter he faced. Jacob Felts would end the inning by throwing out would-be base stealer, Jared King, at second. Felts would start the rally in the very next inning by doubling home Jonathan Walsh who reached base on a strike out wild pitch, and stole second base. Alex Silver, who was hit by a pitch, moved to third base and scored the second run of the game for Texas as Brooks Marlow grounded out to second base, cutting the Kansas State lead to one at 3-2. The bottom half of the inning would reveal more pitching woes, however, as Hoby Milner allowed two singles to put men on first and third and was subsequently replaced by John Curtiss. The Wildcats would only need one batter to score a run as Dan Klein hit a sacrifice fly to right field, driving in his third RBI of the game. It would be the fourth and final run for Kansas State, making it 4-2.
At this point in the game, Jonathan Walsh and Jordan Etier gathered the Longhorns in the dugout and showed some upperclassmen leadership, reminding the team of their goals in Manhattan. The team listened, rallying in the eighth inning to tie the game on a balk and an RBI single by Brooks Marlow. With the game tied, Texas closer Corey Knebel took the mound, sitting the Wildcats down in order in the eighth and ninth innings. Kansas State threatened in the tenth but stranded two base runners, extending the game to the eleventh inning. Using consecutive two-out singles from Mark Payton, Taylor Stell, Erich Weiss, and Jonathan Walsh, Texas gained a 6-4 lead over Kansas State. A prompt 1-2-3 inning from Corey Knebel made it final, giving Knebel his second win of the season and tying the series at one win apiece.
The Sunday rubber match started out all Texas when Jordan Etier (batting in the two-hole) and Erich Weiss hit back-to-back triples followed by a double from Jonathan Walsh. With the score 2-0 in favor of the Longhorns, freshman Ricky Jacquez took the mound. Jacquez glided through the first inning, but hit trouble in the second, in the form of a lead-off home run off the bat of Wade Hinkle. Texas answered in the third, when Jordan Etier singled and was brought home with a towering two-run homer from Erich Weiss. Texas maintained their 4-1 lead until the fifth, when Kansas State took advantage of two walks, a hit by pitch, and three hits to score three runs, knotting the score at 4-4. Hoby Milner, making his third appearance of the series, relieved Jacquez in the fifth, and showed control issues early. Thankfully, Hoby settled in, and provided Texas with a solid sixth inning. The Longhorns took the lead in the seventh, when Jonathan Walsh hit his second double of the day, bringing home Jordan Etier and Erich Weiss. John Curtiss, Dillon Peters, and Corey Knebel provided relief pitching in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, holding the Wildcats to only two more hits and one run. The last Kansas State run of the weekend occurred in the eighth, when Ross Kivett was walked and brought home by a Jared King triple. Alex Silver flashed the leather at first base to prevent further runs from scoring and ending the Wildcat threat. Erich Weiss led off the ninth inning with his second home run of the game, pushing the Texas lead to 7-5. Jonathan Walsh followed Weiss with a single, and after stealing second base, crossed the plate when Alex Silver doubled to right center, making the score 8-5. Corey Knebel, who had entered the game in the eighth, shut the door on the Wildcats on the ninth, earning his 24th career save. This moves Corey to number two on the all-time saves list at Texas, where he is tied with J. Brent Cox, and still 17 saves behind the all-time leader Huston Street.
For the second weekend in a row, the Texas hitters took a major step forward. The Longhorns are now batting .263 as a team, while holding opponents to a .234 average. Jonathan Walsh now leads the team in batting average, hitting at a staggering .360 clip. Even more impressive is the leap by Jordan Etier, who has lifted his batting average to .291 on the season after hovering near .100 only a few weeks ago. Erich Weiss now leads the team in home runs, with three, and is slugging .561. Texas returns to action this Wednesday evening when they host UT-Pan American (11-5).