Skyler Messinger hits grand slam to top Kansas in series sweep, 11-6

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

During former Jayhawk Skyler Messinger’s senior day ceremony, Kansas coach Ritch Price sprinted from the away dugout, giving his player a warm embrace at home plate. 

“I love that man,” Messinger said after the game. “I got nothing but the highest respect and praise for him. For him to do that was very cool.”

The graduate transfer wrote himself a storybook ending for his final regular season game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field when he breathed life into a dormant Longhorn offense in the seventh inning.

With the Longhorns trailing 2-5, a baseball to redshirt junior Eric Kennedy’s side rattled pitcher Ryan Vanderhei. He then gave up two back-to-back singles from redshirt junior Ivan Melendez and redshirt senior Murphy Stehly to prompt a score. Vanderhei also lost a battle with redshirt senior Austin Todd, who dished out nine pitches before walking the designated hitter.

With the bases loaded, Messinger blasted Vanderhei’s second pitch out to left center field in emotional fashion, bringing the 7,297 fans packed into the stadium onto their feet. 

Messinger, who is known for having a level-headed and unfazed demeanor on the field, skipped to his teammates waiting for him at the dugout, smiling from ear-to-ear.

“It was nothing geared towards Kansas or anything like that, it’s just the situation of the game,” Messinger said.  “Being down and (hitting) a go-ahead grand slam … I was fired up.”

Head coach David Pierce said Messinger has a huge impact on his team and he deserves the special moment in front of a big crowd. 

“(He is) just an unbelievable kid, and he works his tail off,” Pierce said. “I don’t know if you could draw it up any better.”

The grand slam set off an offensive surge for the remainder of the game. In the next inning, Kennedy hit his third home run of the series, while Stehly and Todd added their 16th and fifth respective home runs of the season. After trailing almost the whole game, Texas brought home the win 11-6.

“Murphy hit that one before me, so I was like, ‘Man, how am I gonna top this one?’” Todd said. “Knowing that it’s probably my last (at-bat) at the Disch, I just (tried) to relax and put a good swing on it.”

Todd also acknowledged that Texas is scrappy, and that his team is never truly out of a game.

“We’re playing good baseball, and I take us up against anybody,” Todd said. “We’re just gonna fight ‘til the end.”

In addition to home runs by the trio of seniors, sophomore Mitch Daly appeared to break his sophomore slump season during the Kansas series. The second baseman hit a grand slam on Thursday and a solo homer on Saturday, improving his season batting average from .247 to .257.

“I’m just coming into a mindset every day just trying to get better each day,” Daly said. “You have (some) results (and) you have a little success, (that) helps out your confidence.”

With the sweep of Kansas to close out the regular season, Texas baseball is situated as the number five seed in the Big 12 Conference tournament and will play Oklahoma in Arlington this Wednesday.

“We’re on a championship run right now,” Pierce said. “You’re always gonna have adversity, and (we’ve) handled a lot of that really well.”