Texas Baseball drops Big 12 tournament opener to No. 8 Kansas

Evan Vieth, Associate Sports Editor

Four days after a title-winning sweep against No. 6 West Virginia, the Longhorns’ hot streak quickly came to an end as they were outmatched against the No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks on Wednesday.

Despite a promising weekend in Austin that saw Texas securing the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament and a share of the regular season title, the Longhorns failed to ride their momentum heading into tournament play. The Kansas Jayhawks, who finished just 8–16 in Big 12 play, knocked the Longhorns to the lower bracket after a 6-3 victory in Arlington.

The deciding moment came in the seventh inning, with the game tied at two, an already low score for the Longhorns who spent the weekend scoring six runs per game in the first two innings. With junior lefty and Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Lucas Gordon chased out of the game after five innings, redshirt sophomore right-hander Travis Sthele was tasked with keeping the game within reach. After an improved sixth inning, Sthele got into trouble in the seventh, loading the bases off of a single, a walk, and an intentional walk. Stepping in was Jayhawk and junior DH Janson Reeder, who had already homered against the Longhorns in a 4-10 home victory just under three weeks earlier, Kansas’ only win over Texas this year.

On a 3-2 count, Sthele threw a fastball right down the middle, allowing Reeder to launch a bomb to right field, just over junior Dylan Campbell’s head. The DH flipped his bat and rounded the bases in swagger, knowing he’d just hit the biggest home run of his life and his first grand slam of the season.

Wednesday’s loss spelled another unfortunate outing for Sthele in Arlington. Though he was able to finish the game with no more damage, the pitcher has now given up 12 runs this season in Arlington, eight of which came unearned against Vanderbilt in Texas’ third game of the season during the 2023 College Baseball Showdown.

Texas’ main spark of offense came from junior second baseman Jack O’Dowd, who homered twice in the game and was responsible for the first and last runs UT scored. Wednesday was O’Dowd’s first multi-homer game of his career and was the catalyst that Texas needed at the end of their lineup.

Unfortunately for O’Dowd and the pitching staff, the rest of the Longhorn batters did not come to play. The team struck out nine times, three of which came in the ninth inning. The top six in the Longhorns order hit just 4/20 with zero extra base hits. Though the box score made the game seem close, it felt like the Longhorns were playing defensive the whole game, contrast to the 14 runs per game they had been scoring in their last five games.

The Longhorns now fall to 0–4 at Globe Life Field in Arlington on the season and will need a strong showing against Kansas State on Thursday for a chance at a Big 12 tournament title.