Johnston’s gem, Gurwitz’s homer not enough to get sweep

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Sophomore starting pitcher Kyle Johnston pitched into the seventh inning and only gave up four hits in the loss.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns entered Sunday’s matchup with Kansas State looking for a series sweep to begin the slow climb back to postseason relevance. 

But a great start by Texas sophomore starter Kyle Johnston and a home run by surging junior second baseman Zane Gurwitz were not enough to prevent a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Wildcats, who were ranked last in the Big 12. 

Johnston kept the Wildcat hitters off balance all afternoon. The sophomore scattered four hits over 6.1 innings of one run ball. 

“Too bad it was wasted on a loss,” head coach Augie Garrido told 104.9 FM The Horn. “But it was a great performance.” 

The Wildcats were unable to put much offense together during Johnston’s time on the mound. Every time the sophomore worked his way into a jam — including a bases loaded, one out situation in the fourth — a few high 90’s fastballs were enough to alleviate any troubles. 

But despite home run barrages on Friday and Saturday, the Texas offense struggled to support Johnston’s efforts. 

“It’s not uncommon, when you have high scoring games, to all of the sudden flatten out.” Garrido told The Horn. “We just needed to close it out. Didn’t quite get that done.”

A sac fly by sophomore right fielder Patrick Mathis pushed junior Kacy Clemens across to give the Longhorns an early 1-0 advantage in the second inning, but the offense fell silent after that. 

Wildcat senior starter Corey Fischer never let Texas put together sustained rallies. When the Longhorns did connect a few base hits, they were either caught stealing or thrown out on the basepaths. Even so, the Longhorns maintained the one run difference through six innings. 

The delicate lead crumbled in the seventh. 

Johnston got a leadoff single and strikeout to start the inning before being replaced by senior lefty Travis Duke. Duke faced one batter and surrendered a double into the right center field gap to put men on second and third with one out. His replacement, freshman Chase Shugart, allowed a deep sac fly to right to tie the game at one run apiece.

In the eighth, it appeared as though Shugart would help subdue a Wildcat rally. The freshman sandwiched a strikeout and a flyout around an apparently innocuous single. But a hit by pitch followed by a pair of singles, aided by a botched rundown, led to a pair of Wildcat runs to make the score 3-1 Kansas State.

With one out in the ninth inning, Gurwitz countered with an opposite field homerun. But because of the misplay the inning prior, the second baseman’s efforts ended up an afterthought in the box score of another tough loss. 

“There were some really great things that went on in this series for us,” Garrido told The Horn. “We’re [a] better team than when we got here.”

Texas will look to rebound with a Tuesday night matchup in Sugar Land against the Houston Cougars. The Longhorns will play as the home team at Constellation Field.