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Texas baseball looks to right the ship as ‘Horns kick off Big 12 season against Kansas

Texas has lost five straight, and will need better performances from the mound in order to get back on track.

Nolan Kingham
Texas Sports — @TexasBaseball Twitter

Texas Longhorns baseball (9-9) will look to snap a five game losing streak on Friday evening, as the ‘Horns will host the Kansas Jayhawks (12-4) at 6:30 pm CST to commence Big 12 play.

The Longhorns are at risk of falling below .500 for the first time since going 0-1 to start the 2017 season.

In most years, having a home match-up against the Jayhawks is not a daunting task, but Kansas has gotten off to a tremendous start in 2018.

While the Longhorns have begun to fall off the rails against top opponents, the Jayhawks have been holding their own against them. Kansas is riding a four game win streak, including a series sweep against then No. 20 St. Johns.

On offense, Kansas has been led by sophomore catcher Jaxx Groshans, who actually signed with the Longhorns in the fall of 2016. Groshans is hitting .413 on the year, and also has five doubles, two triples, and three homers to his name.

Hitting has been a strength for the Jayhawks, as the lineup features five other players hitting .300 or better.

On the pitching side, Tyler Davis will get the Friday start for the Jayhawks. The senior righty has notched a 1.69 ERA on the season, but has only thrown for 10.2 innings total in his six appearances as he has worked out of a reliever role until now. Still, Davis has been in control every time he’s taken the mound, including a 3.2 inning appearance against St. John’s in which he allowed no runs, one hit, and threw for four strikeouts.

Davis will be squaring off with Texas’ Nolan Kingham. The Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list recipient has gotten off to a rocky start after a dominant 2017 season. Kingham is currently sitting at a middling 4.56 ERA. After starting the season with an excellent eight inning performance against UL-Lafayette, the junior righty has allowed 16 runs across his last 15.2 innings.

On Saturday, lefty Taylor Turski (5.49 ERA) will start for Kansas and face Texas’ Blair Henley (2.35 ERA). This will be a match-up where the ‘Horns should have an advantage, as the sophomore Henley has been Texas’ most reliable force from the mound this season.

While Texas is TBD for a Sunday starter, Kansas will feature Ryan Zeferjahn, who this season has looked nearly as excellent as his last name. The sophomore leads the team in innings pitched with 23, and is 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA. Zeferjahn is a strikeout pitcher, as he has sat down a team high 34 batters on the season.

The takeaway for this season so far is that if the Longhorns were as solid from the mound as they usually are, then the team would be hitting well enough to win. Texas has a decent .267 team batting average on the year, and has an impressive 14 homers.

However, having a team ERA of 5.19 is far from cutting it, and Texas will need to right the ship starting this weekend if the team wants to make the NCAA tournament. That starts with guys like Kingham turning in deep, consistent outings so that the ‘Horns don’t need to rely as much on a thin bullpen.

The ‘Horns will be playing with heavy hearts this weekend, as legendary coach Augie Garrido passed away at 79 years old on Thursday. My first season covering Texas baseball was Augie’s last season as head coach, and though Texas did not have a good year, I greatly admire Augie for what he did for Texas baseball and for who he was as a person. College baseball greatly misses Augie, but the imprint he left will never go away.

You can catch this weekend’s action on the Longhorn Network or by listening on 104.9 the Horn. Hook ‘Em!