Early-inning hits stopped by Texas bullpen
- Apr. 22, 2012
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With a series victory on the line Sunday afternoon, the Texas bullpen shut down the Jayhawks’ upset bid.
The Kansas baseball team (16-25, 4-11 Big 12) dropped its second-straight game to No. 23 Texas on Sunday, falling 7-2 in Austin.
After defeating Texas 7-2 in Friday’s series opener, the Jayhawk offense went quiet for the remainder of the weekend. The season-high four-game winning streak came to an end Saturday evening in a 3-0 loss at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, and the offensive struggles carried into Sunday.
Kansas jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Texas pitcher Dillon Peters, but Peters’ day was short-lived. A lead-off walk to freshman outfielder Dakota Smith in the second inning prompted Augie Garrido, college baseball’s winningest head coach, to turn to pitcher John Curtiss out of the bullpen – a move that would pay off.
“We thought their bullpen was better than their starting pitching, so our goal was to get a few runs on the board early,” sophomore outfielder Tucker Tharp said. “Their bullpen was just really deep and pitched well all weekend.”
Sunday was the fifth time in the last six games that Kansas scored in the first inning. Kansas’ first inning success has been largely in part to Tharp’s move into the leadoff spot. Since stepping into the role on April 6, Tharp has gotten a hit in all but three games, hitting over .360 in April. Although Kansas was able jump ahead first, the early pitching change forced the Jayhawks to change their offensive approach.
“He’s got a power arm,” coach Ritch Price said of Curtiss. “He was pitching it 90-93 [mph], and he was able to throw enough breaking balls in there for strikes to keep us off balanced.”
While Peters gave up two hits to Kansas in the first inning, the Texas bullpen trio of Curtiss, Hoby Milner and Corey Knebel allowed just two hits in the final eight innings.
For the first four innings, junior pitcher Thomas Taylor made the 2-0 advantage appear like more than enough to defeat Texas. Taylor cruised into the fifth inning without surrendering a hit, but when Taylor lost control of his pitches in the fifth, Texas made him pay.
“He really just lost command of his fastball,” Price said. “He was able to get the first out, and then all of the sudden, he walks a batter and gives up a couple base hits. He set the table for Texas to put up a crooked number. It comes down to that he got out of sync and out of rhythm.”
Taylor went 4.2 innings but allowed four runs in the fifth inning on three hits, walking a season-high five batters. The loss drops Taylor to 4-5 on the season with a 4.08 ERA.
With nine conference games remaining in the season, Kansas currently sits at seventh place in the Big 12 standings. The top-eight teams in conference play qualify for the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City.
The Jayhawks return to Lawrence with a losing record, but Price is already impressed with the team’s improvement in Big 12 play.
“I was pleased with the way we competed, and I was pleased with the way that we played,” Price said. “Overall, we are significantly better than we were when we played Baylor five weeks ago.”
Edited by Ian Cummings