Texas 13, Kansas State 6: Longhorns claim series opener with an eight-run eighth inning
Statistically speaking, the eighth inning had already been good to Texas this season.
Over their first 30 games, the Longhorns had scored 31 runs in the eighth inning. Only a 32-run showing in their second innings was better.
And Friday night, the Longhorns saved their best for the eighth inning of a wild win over Kansas State. An eight-run outburst in the eighth helped Texas rally to a 13-6 victory and extend its winning streak to six games. The fourth-ranked Longhorns (23-8), who saw three starters ejected from Friday's game, are now 8-2 in Big 12 play.
"It really showed our character tonight in the win," Texas outfielder Mike Antico said.
Down 6-5 in a game it once led 5-2, Texas sent 12 batters to the plate during its highest-scoring inning of the season. After Douglas Hodo III led off the eighth with a double and Antico tied the game with a single, Texas loaded the bases with one out. UT first baseman Zach Zubia then drew a walk to score Antico and give the Longhorns the lead.
Texas wasn't done. Silas Ardoin drove in two runs with a single, and Zubia came home on Murphy Stehly's sacrifice fly. A three-run double by Antico was the exclamation point.
"We practice gamelike (situations) a lot," Antico said. "It's for moments just like that. Down by one run in the eighth inning and you've got to get it done."
Antico, a graduate transfer from St. John's, singled, doubled twice and tripled. He drove in five runs and stole his conference-leading 15th and 16th bases.
He was also involved in a play that had a huge impact on the game.
In the second inning, Antico gave Texas a 2-1 lead when he drove the ball past a diving Caleb Littlejim in center field. But he was easily thrown out trying to stretch a triple into a homer after being waved home by Texas coach David Pierce. As he approached the plate, Antico lowered his shoulder into catcher Chris Ceballos.
Ceballos met Antico squarely, and then the Wildcat senior exchanged words with both Cam Williams, who had just scored, and Trey Faltine, the next batter due up. Williams also shoved Ceballos. Both benches cleared.
After a lengthy conference and review, the umpiring crew tossed Williams, Faltine and Mitchell Daly for their roles in escalating the situation. Daly, Faltine and Williams were starting at second base, shortstop and third base for Texas. Second baseman Kamron Willman was the only starter among the three ejected Wildcats.
By rule, each of the ejected players must serve a one-game suspension, so they were ruled out of Saturday's contest.
"I think we could have handled it a little better. Both teams could have handled it better," Pierce said. "The crew was put in a really tough predicament because it is the rule. We've got to live with it."
After the ejections, Texas remodeled its infield. Lance Ford went to third base, Dylan Campbell took over at second base, and Stehly was the team's new shortstop.
Campbell, Ford and Stehly all went on to score a run. Stehly went 2-for-3 at the plate. Defensively, Campbell was involved in two double plays.
"Those three guys would be starting on any team in Division I baseball," Antico said. "It's a hard thing to do to stay ready like that. You've got to give them huge props for coming off the bench and being ready."
UT's eighth inning made a winner of relief pitcher Aaron Nixon. Tyler Eckberg was tagged with the loss. Neither of the starting pitchers factored into the decision.
Texas starter Ty Madden allowed five hits and two runs over six innings. Kansas State's Jordan Wicks was tied to four earned runs, an unearned score and 10 hits.
Both Madden and Wicks are considered prized prospects in the 2021 draft class. MLB.com has Madden rated as the nation's 10th-best draft-eligible talent. Wicks ranks 16th.
Only time will tell whether both Madden and Wicks are selected in the first round of July's draft. If they are, Friday's result will become all the more noteworthy. It has been a decade since a Texas game featured two starting pitchers who were first-round picks in that year's draft.
In 2011, Texas and Taylor Jungmann were beaten by Kent State and Andrew Chafin in an NCAA regional game. Jungmann was the 12th pick in that year's draft. Chafin was the 43rd choice.
Around the bases: A solo shot in the sixth inning gave Texas designated hitter Ivan Melendez a home run in his fourth straight game. ... Daniel Carinci, who replaced Willman, gave Kansas State (17-12, 2-5) its eighth-inning lead with a two-run triple. ... Eleven of the 12 Longhorns with plate appearances Friday scored. The only exception was Faltine, who was ejected before his first time up. ... Pierce said 29 scouts were in attendance to watch Madden and Wicks.