Blair Henley and the Texas pitchers could be key to the Longhorns' post-season success. (Jamie Harms/for American-Statesman)

Baseball

Business as usual for Texas pitchers as Longhorns blank Kansas

Henley, Ridgeway team up to shut out Kansas as Horns improve to 2-0 in conference.

Posted March 17th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Henley improves to 3-1, and his ERA drops to 1.80.
  • Ridgeway gets his third save of the year after recording 12 last year.
  • Kody Clemens goes 2-for-4 to raise his average to .368.

Like Nolan Kingham the day before them, Texas pitchers Blair Henley and Beau Ridgeway rebounded from rough outings in a 4-0 victory over Kansas on Saturday afternoon.

The six-hit shutout at UFCU Disch-Falk Field — UT’s third blanking of the year — improved the Longhorns’ record to 11-9. Texas has won both of its games against Big 12 competition.

“We knew we had to take care of business,” Henley said. “After those five games we dropped (against Stanford and Arkansas), we kind of all came together, and we realized that’s not how we play.”

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One day after Kingham went the distance in a 14-4 blowout of the Jayhawks, Henley struck out four while allowing two walks and hitting two batters. Henley scattered five hits over a 95-pitch outing, which ended with no outs in the eighth inning.

Both Texas coach David Pierce and Henley lauded the pitcher’s command of his fastball Saturday.

Henley improved to 3-1 with the win, and his ERA dropped to 1.80. The sophomore right-hander, who has won the Big 12’s Pitcher of the Week award once this season, was coming off a loss to Stanford in which he allowed five runs.

After a double play got him out of trouble in the seventh inning, Henley plunked and walked the first two hitters he faced in the eighth. Ridgeway was called out of the bullpen and needed only seven pitches to retire the Jayhawks. He stayed on for the ninth inning and recorded his third save of the year.

After a 12-save season, Ridgeway entered this year as an All-America candidate. However, he surrendered 13 earned runs over his first nine appearances. Ridgeway earned his first career start at Arkansas on Tuesday, but he was tagged for five runs in 2 1/3 innings.

On Saturday, Ridgeway struck out three of the seven batters he faced.

“Beau, he really shut it down,” Henley said. “It got his confidence back. That’s what we need because he’s a big part of our bullpen. If he can do that every time, it’s going to be huge for our team.”

Texas is 8-1 in games in which it scores in the first inning, an arbitrary statistic that was put in play by Kody Clemens’ bat. With two outs in UT’s first at-bat Saturday, Clemens launched a two-strike pitch over the right field fence. Two innings later, he gave Texas a 2-0 lead with a run-scoring single.

After a 2-for-4 performance, Clemens is hitting .368 over his 20-game season. The junior infielder also has five home runs and 19 RBIs. Over 54 games last year, Clemens hit .241 with five homers and 23 RBIs. Two seasons ago, Clemens contributed five home runs, 28 RBIs and a .242 batting average in 57 games.

“He’s not only a leader; he’s just fun,” Pierce said. “When he’s swinging it well, he’s as good as anybody.”

Around the bases: Clemens scored his 19th run of the year in the sixth inning. … Chase Shugart (0-2, 5.18 ERA) will start for Texas in the series finale Sunday afternoon. He will be opposed by Kansas’ Ryan Zeferjahn (3-0, 1.96). … Shortstop David Hamilton (thumb) missed his second straight start. Pierce said Hamilton will be limited to pinch-running duties Sunday. … Texas announced a crowd of 5,142 for the game.

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