On Friday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Texas turned a comeback into a conquest.
Texas rallied from an early deficit and sophomore Nolan Kingham closed out his regular season with a solid showing in a 6-2 series-opening win over West Virginia. With seeding in next week’s Big 12 tournament on the line, Texas (33-19; 10-11) climbed within a half-game of West Virginia in the standings.
West Virginia (31-21; 11-11) entered the week in a fourth-place tie with Baylor and Kansas.
“It shows that one, we’re not going to just give up after the first (few) innings,” said Bret Boswell, whose team trailed 2-0 in the fifth inning. “We’re just going to keep battling and grinding it out through the entire nine innings.”
West Virginia starter BJ Myers puzzled the Texas offense over Friday’s first five frames, and the Longhorns stranded three runners in scoring position in the process. Texas broke though in the sixth, however, and tied the game on Boswell’s RBI double and a run-scoring wild pitch.
In the seventh, catcher Michael Cantu drew a leadoff walk and pinch-runner Tyler Rand scooted to second base on David Hamilton’s bunt single. That set the stage for junior Patrick Mathis, who had returned to the leadoff spot in Texas’ batting order for the first time in five games.
Mathis met with third-base coach Sean Allen before the at-bat, but swung and missed after showing a bunt. Texas called another time-out, and Mathis chatted that time with head coach David Pierce. Mathis once again indicated he’d be bunting before he read the Mountaineer shortstop and delivered a single up the middle that scored Rand.
Texas added onto its first lead of the game as Kody Clemens and Travis Jones sacrificed and singled in two additional runs. The Longhorns then scored on another sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.
“We finally got in the box with an intent, and we got in there saying we’re going to win this game,” Pierce said. “We just continued to tack on.”
Texas’ late-inning offensive surge made a winner out of Kingham, who improved to 8-4 three days after Nick Kennedy became the third Longhorn pitcher since 2012 to win eight games in a season. Kennedy threw a nine-pitch inning of relief on Friday, but the night belonged to the right-handed Kingham.
Kingham gave up two runs and a career-high 10 hits, but he was effective over his seven innings. The six-strikeout effort was Kingham’s first appearance since his worst outing of the season. On May 6 at TCU, Kingham was tagged for six hits and seven earned runs in 2.1 innings.
Kingham threw 102 pitches against West Virginia.
“It didn’t go the way we planned (against TCU), but we had two weeks off to get better and work out everything we were struggling in,” Kingham said. “It paid off tonight.”
Rounding the bases: Due to the threat of inclement weather, the start of Saturday’s game has been moved from 4 p.m. to 1 p.m. … Texas turned its 58th double play of the season. Before Friday’s game, the Longhorn trailed nation-leading San Diego State and Eastern Illinois by three double plays. … West Virginia catcher Ivan Gonzalez, who attended nearby Stony Point, went 1-for-4 with a RBI. … Boswell, Kacy Clemens, Zane Gurwitz, Morgan Cooper and Jon Malmin all graduated on Friday. Clemens, Boswell and Gurwitz took up the 4th, 5th and 6th spots in Texas’ batting order, and they went 5-for-10 with two walks.