KU’s Duncan stymies Texas lineup as Horns drop series opener

Christian Corona

Jayhawks starting pitcher Frank Duncan threw nine dominant innings, retiring 20 straight Longhorns hitters in the process, and No. 23 Texas (21-14, 9-4) lost its third series opener in four weeks, 7-2, to the Jayhawks (16-23, 4-9) at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Friday night.

"Good pitching beats good hitting. Always has, always will," said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. "Their pitcher is the story. He dominated the game. He got the first pitch over probably 75-80 percent of the time in good locations, followed that up with a good breaking ball, and he threw the breaking ball when he was ahead in the count and when he was behind in the count."

Sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, who came in having reached base in each of the Longhorns' previous 34 games this season, saw that streak snapped Friday as the .306 hitter went 0-for-4 against Kansas, striking out three times.

"I'm more upset about not contributing to the offense tonight," Payton said. "That's pretty cool to have that, looking back at it, getting on base that many times in a game in a row. But we've got to come out tomorrow with a new attitude like today never happened."

Meanwhile, sophomore Nathan Thornhill, who was 2-1 with a 3.49 ERA in his last six starts, struggled. Coming off an outstanding effort against Oklahoma State last Friday, when he pitched left the 7th inning with a 1-0 lead, Thornhill gave up eight hits in just four innings of work while surrendering three runs. After walking only 15 in nearly 60 previous innings of work before this outing, Thornhill issued two walks.

"I should have done a better job," Thornhill said. "I really didn't feel comfortable out there. I can't really tell you what it was. It was just one of those days. I didn't have it. It happens. I still need to be able to compete when you don't have it. That's what makes you a pitcher."

Thornhill stranded two Kansas baserunners in the first and two in the third before allowing two-out, two-run single to junior shortstop Kevin Kuntz with the bases loaded in the fourth frame, giving the Jayhawks a 3-0 lead. Kansas didn't score again until the eighth inning, when junior Hoby Milner surrendered four runs. Senior shortstop Jordan Etier made an errant throw to first base, allowing two Jayhawks to cross the plate before Kuntz' two-run triple under the diving glove of freshman center fielder Taylor Stell.

Stell, who singled up the middle with one out in the first inning, was the only Longhorns hitter to reach base in the first seven frames. Duncan retired the side in six straight innings from the second to the sixth while striking out a career-high 11 batters. Texas didn't score until the eighth inning, when freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow hit a two-run single with the bases loaded.

"That's the way we need to play every inning," said Thornhill.

The Longhorns will square off against the Jayhawks again tomorrow at 7 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field for the second game of a three-game series. Texas is 6-1 in its last seven games following a loss, outscoring opponents 42-19 in those contests.