And so the world of Texas Longhorns baseball turns.
A weekend after a disappointing series loss to mediocre Kansas in Lawrence (following a win streak), Texas returned home to the friendly confines of UFCU Disch-Falk Field to take on the Sam Houston Bearkats on Tuesday.
Things went well — five runs in the third inning and five strong innings from weekend-starter-turned-reliever-turned-midweek-starter Kyle Johnston bolstered the ‘Horns to an 8-1 victory.
Johnston started the season with three solid efforts before moving to the bullpen in the fourth weekend series of the season, successfully saving two games against the Bruins before things started to fall apart.
In a high-pressure appearance against the Aggies on March 14, Johnston gave up three walks, one hit, and two earned runs in securing only two outs before he was pulled from the game.
The blown opportunity to close out Texas A&M seemed to spiral — Johnston took the loss against Texas Tech in his next appearance after allowing two earned runs over 2.1 innings, then cratered in another loss against Texas State, failing to record an out in giving up three hits, two walks, and three earned runs.
During those three appearances, Johnston’s ERA more than doubled as his historic issues with commanding the strike zone resurfaced with a vengeance.
So head coach David Pierce took the midweek opportunity against 20-9 Sam Houston State to give Johnston an attempt to build his confidence back up. It worked — Johnston allowed one run on one hit with two walks and a hit batter over his five innings while striking out four opponents.
To be sure, two walks and hit batter isn’t perfect, but it was certainly an improvement. Now the question is where Johnston fits moving forward. Can he throw strikes when called out of the bullpen?
At the plate, Texas knocked out 13 hits, including a string with two outs in the decisive third inning — first baseman Kacy Clemens plated two with a bases-loaded single, second baseman Bret Boswell followed with a single of his own, and catcher Michael Cantu completed the rally with another one-base swing.
Then, in the sixth, Cantu continued a recent surge at the plate with his first career home run at home, driving a ball over the left-field wall.
Following Johnston’s five innings, Chase Shugart pitched two scoreless frames, while Connor Mayes and Tyler Schimpf closed things out for the ‘Horns.
No. 16 Oklahoma comes to town this weekend for a key conference grudge match, starting at 7 p.m. CT on Friday.