Once again without first baseman Ivan Melendez and left fielder Eric Kennedy, the No. 7 Texas Longhorns beat the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday in Manhattan to avoid an awful series weep with the 4-2 victory.
Left-hander Lucas Gordon was excellent, allowing two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts and three walks in five innings, with the only legitimate complain about his outing his elevated pitch count of 100 pitches that kept him from working deeper into the contest.
But he was picked up by the bullpen as left-hander Luke Harrison went 1.1 innings and right-hander Aaron Nixon had his best outing in at least five weeks, recording his first save since March 8 by going 2.2 innings with four strikeouts.
At the plate, the Longhorns were far from outstanding with only seven hits, but they were able to come through often enough as designated hitter Austin Todd went 3-for-5 in the leadoff spot with a double and a run scored and shortstop Trey Faltine was 1-for-2 with two runs scored.
Gordon started the game locating his pitches well, but suffered from some bad luck in the second inning when leadoff batter Nick Goodwin blooped a triple into right field between three Texas defenders and scored on a sacrifice fly, barely beating a strong throw from left fielder Dylan Campbell, who put just a little bit too much air on his one-hop throw.
The Longhorns responded in the third when Faltine singled through the right side to beat the shift by the Wildcats and Todd doubled down the left-field line to put runners on second and third with one out. In a strong at bat, second baseman Mitchell Daly took multiple close pitches after getting behind and lined a ball into the right-center gap where Cameron Uselton was able to take away extra bases and save a run with a diving catch, but Faltine did score easily from third.
After right fielder Murphy Stehly suffered some bad luck when a pitch thrown behind him hit his back as he tried to avoid it, the Horns got a break on a throwing error by the Wildcats third baseman to take a 2-1 lead when Todd scored from third. A walk drawn by catcher Silas Ardoin kept the pressure on Kansas State right-hander Connor McCullough, who was getting frustrated by having borderline pitches called balls. But McCullough was able to bounce back by striking out third baseman Skyler Messinger.
In the fourth, Dylan Phillips led off with a single, advanced on a wild pitch, then made it to third on a double steal following a hit by pitch. The Wildcats tied the game at 2-2 with an RBI groundout.
The fifth featured a long delay when Dom Johnson’s hard slide into second on a walk resulted in a verbal exchange with Daly and escalated into multiple players from both teams jawing at each other, as well as the ejection of two Kansas State players, who both left the dugout during the altercation.
Then the Longhorns regained the lead in the sixth thanks to a two-out double by center fielder Douglas Hodo III and a bloop double by Campbell into short right-center field.
Trying to maintain the lead, Harrison pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning before Texas head coach David Pierce called to the bullpen for Nixon after a lengthy at bat resulted in a walk by Harrison to lead off the seventh. Nixon’s fastball still wasn’t reliable enough for him to use it regularly, but he was able to locate his slider well enough to strand two runners in the seventh and strike out two batters in the eighth, although the Kansas State hitters provided an assist with questionable plate discipline.
Texas returns to UFCU Disch-Falk field on Tuesday and Wednesday for midweek games against Air Force before hosting Baylor in a weekend Big 12 series.