Kyle Johnston received a thunderous ovation from the Texas crowd after walking off the mound to end the sixth inning. Those in the crowd at UFCU Disch-Falk Field cheered Johnston, assuming his day was done.
But after the Longhorns went down quickly in the inning’s bottom frame, the sophomore pitcher trotted back onto the mound. The first Stanford player that approached the plate was silenced, as was the next. After a groundout to short to end the inning, Johnston’s night was truly done.
Johnston had everything going on Friday night, turning in a gem for the Longhorns in a 4-3 Texas win.
“Tonight I really went through my process on the mound and stay focused,” Johnston said. “If I kept throwing first pitch strikes, I could go as long as I wanted to.”
Johnston showcased his blazing fastball, clocking in at 96 mph on the radar gun numerous times and only walked two Stanford hitters on the night.
Friday marked the second-straight quality outing from Johnston to begin the season. The right-hander struggled with command against UNLV on Opening Day, giving up five walks in four innings last Thursday.
Friday’s battle looked to be a repeat through the matchup first two innings. Stanford trotted out freshman Tristan Beck, making it the second-consecutive start for the Cardinal. Beck and Johnston cruised through the first two innings, allowing just one total base runner.
Beck quickly unraveled in the third inning. Following a walk and hit by pitch to begin the inning, Texas plated three runs before recording an out. A single by junior DH Tres Barerra extended the Longhorn lead to 4-0, and after just three innings, Beck’s night was done.
“The way we extended the third inning turned out to be the important factor in winning the game,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “We did a good job of continuing to attack.”
Johnston continued to look sharp with the added breathing room but surrendered two runs because of sloppy Texas defense. But he ended his night with four hits, two walks and a career-high nine strikeouts in seven innings.
It was almost for nothing, though. Bullpen struggles struck the Longhorns in the eighth. Freshman Beau Ridgeway entered the game for Texas and promptly surrendered a walk and an RBI double before being pulled by Garrido. An intentional walk by freshman Chase Shugart loaded the bases with two outs. In a clutch situation, Shugart came through, forcing a groundout to end the inning.
After a 1-0 extra-inning loss on Thursday, the Longhorns rebounded Friday night, playing the type of baseball Garrido looks for. This early in the season, it’s not about the results for Texas but about the process.
“It’s important to be able to control yourself,” Garrido said. “If we think about results during the process, the performance isn’t great. It’s a hard thing to learn.”