Smoked by Kansas in Friday’s opener, Texas came out swinging to even the series in the night cap.
Zane Gurwitz hit a three-run home run in the first inning, and Tres Barrera laid into one for a 425-foot blast in the fourth to help the Longhorns build a seven-run lead in what became a hairy 8-6 victory in the second game of a doubleheader at the Disch.
The teams played a doubleheader Friday rather than facing off Sunday during a likely rainstorm.
In Saturday’s rubbermatch, UT (15-20, 6-5) will try to win its third Big 12 series in four tries and stay within striking distance of Texas Tech and TCU at the top of the conference.
Facing their second left-handed starter of the day, the Longhorns got to work early, tagging KU’s Blake Weiman for seven hits and six runs (five earned) in three innings and taking out some frustrations from a 11-5 loss in game one.
“To win ballgames we need to establish control of the game early,” Barrera said.
Barrera’s fourth home run of the season came off reliever Tyler Davis and was positively crushed to left into a tree past the advertising signs. Barrera, who watched the ball leave the yard and then flipped his bat, said “I don’t think I’ve hit many balls better than that one.”
Longhorns coach Augie Garrido joked that Barrera’s shot traveled so far “there should be a rule where you get a two-run home run.”
To begin the game, Gurwitz followed doubles by Travis Jones and Barrera with a three-run blast to left for his second home run of the season. That made it 4-0, giving UT starter Kyle Johnston a bit of comfort to settle in against a Jayhawks team that had 15 hits in the game one.
Johnston (2-1) worked 5 2/3 innings and didn’t surrender a hit until Michael Tinsley’s one-out double in the fourth inning. Johnston struck out four, but also walked four, including the leadoff hitter in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Command continues to be an issue for him.
Travis Duke came on for the final out in the sixth and climbed into second place at UT alongside J. Brent Cox and Randy Boone for most career appearances with 106. Given Duke’s heavy workload, it’s possible that with 17 regular season games to go he’ll chase down Austin Wood’s record 118 appearances.
The finish was not without some unnecessary drama. Up 8-2, UT reliever Nick Kennedy loaded the bases in the ninth and was pulled for Chase Shugart. KU’s Ryan Pidhaichuk then ripped a two-run double to cut the lead in half. Matt McLaughlin (RBI groundout) and Michael Tinsley (RBI single) made it 8-6, and brought Colby Wright to the plate for the potential tying run. Concerns of a collapse ended when Wright grounded to Kody Clemens at third to start a 5-4-3 double play.
“The finish put us on the edge of our seats again,” Garrido said. “That part of it was disappointing.”
UT is now being outscored in ninth innings, 29-7.