Texas 15, Kansas State 1: Longhorns pile it on in series-clinching blowout
Texas set the afternoon's tone on the sixth pitch it saw on Saturday.
A leadoff homer from Mike Antico jump-started the Texas offense in a 15-1 win over Kansas State at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The 15 runs were the most scored by Texas in a Big 12 game since a 17-1 win at Texas Tech in 2016.
After a 13-6 winner over Kansas State on Friday, Texas had totaled 11, 17 and 23 runs in the three three-game series it had already completed in conference play this season. The Longhorns (24-8) are now 9-2 against their Big 12 foes.
"I think we're exuding confidence, we're showing that we know how we can play," said first baseman Zach Zubia, whose fourth-ranked team has won seven straight games. "We not only think that we can play well, but we're showcasing it."
In the first inning, Antico led off for the Longhorns with a homer off the scoreboard in right field. That was the first leadoff home run for Texas since David Hamilton accomplished that feat against Texas State in May of 2018.
Antico hit out of the eighth slot in UT's batting order on Friday night, but his promotion to the leadoff spot wasn't a surprise. First off, Antico went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, two steals and five RBIs on Friday. The Longhorns had used him as a leadoff hitter in nine previous games.
Additionally, Texas coach David Pierce had hinted in Friday's postgame press conference that Antico may move up in the batting order. Texas had to play Saturday without starters Mitchell Daly, Cam Williams and Trey Faltine, who were suspended for one game after getting ejected from the series opener.
A graduate transfer from St. John's who led the Red Storm in hitting in 2019, Antico had slumped after stringing together a 17-game on-base streak at the beginning of the season. His four hits on Friday matched the four hits he accumulated in his previous 10 games and 28 at-bats.
Antico acknowledged after Friday's win that he had not been playing up to his potential. He said family members had recently reminded him that he had been playing baseball his whole life, which had led to him trying to play looser. Antico had also made small adjustments to his swing after meeting with Pierce and assistant coaches Philip Miller and Troy Tulowitzki.
"I owe my life to these coaches. Coach Pierce giving me the opportunity every day to play center field, it's a special thing," Antico said. "I'm coming from out of town, different school or whatever. He hasn't had to stick with me through and through and he has. I'm so thankful for him."
In his second plate appearance, Antico walked and later scored. That came during a third inning in which Texas scored seven times and built an 8-0 lead.
Texas scored five more runs in the fourth frame and the rout was on. All of the starters in UT's batting order recorded at least one hit and one run scored. In the fourth inning, designated hitter Ivan Melendez homered for the fifth straight game.
"Whenever we get up there, we're thinking that we want to do damage but we're not swinging out of our shoes," Zubia said. "We're maintaining a good, simple approach up there."
Picking up the win against Kansas State (17-13, 2-6) was Tristan Stevens. The fifth-year right-hander gave Texas seven innings on the mound. Stevens allowed eight hits, but Nick Goodwin's sixth-inning homer was the only run he surrendered.
Stevens did not walk any Wildcats on Saturday. Neither did Lucas Gordon, who pitched the final two innings. This was the third game of the season in which UT didn't allow a walk. Stevens, who is now 5-1 and has pitched at least six innings in each of his last five starts, was the starting pitcher in each of those performances.
"The consistency is huge for us," Pierce said. "When you can minimize the use out of the bullpen and you can get extended into games on Saturday, that means that you have a lot of arsenal still left on Sundays."
Around the bases: With four walks, Zubia fell one free pass short of tying a single-game record at Texas. For the second straight day, Zubia drew a bases-loaded walk. ... The first player outside of Faltine to start at shortstop this year, Murphy Stehly went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs. ... Lance Ford started for Williams at third base and recorded his first hit since the 2019 season. ... UT and Kansas State will close out their series at 1 p.m. on Sunday.