Strong relief pitching, timely hitting help Texas win series over Kansas

AddThis

John Curtiss retired the first 10 batters he faced on Sunday to help UT beat Kansas, 7-2.

Photo Credit: Andreina Velazquez | Daily Texan Staff

John Curtiss and Hoby Milner both began the season as starting pitchers.

But after going a combined 1-4 in five starts, Curtiss and Milner moved to the bullpen, where they have been stellar this year. Freshman Dillon Peters, making his sixth career start and first during the weekend, struggled as he allowed two runs while giving up a pair of hits and issuing three hits. But Curtiss and Milner each turned in great relief outings to help No. 23 Texas (23-14, 11-4) take down Kansas (16-25, 4-11) 7-2 Sunday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

“[Peters] found the air to be a little bit thinner on game day in a Big 12 conference game that you must win versus a Tuesday game,” said Augie Garrido, Texas head coach. “I think [pitching coach] Skip [Johnson] did an outstanding job of positioning the pitchers and made very timely changes with the pitching staff as he brought them in against the top of the order.”

Curtiss replaced Peters in the second after the fellow freshman pitcher walked the leadoff man. Curtiss went on to retire the first 10 batters he faced before allowing a one-out single in the fifth inning and making way for Milner, who sat down the first six hitters he faced. Sophomore closer Corey Knebel finished the game with his eighth save of the year.

“You don’t know how the game’s going to develop,” Curtiss said. “You just have to sit out there and be ready. Today, they went to us a little earlier and we knew that we could go more innings than they usually need us to.”

Like Milner, Curtiss has put up much better numbers as a reliever than as a starting pitcher.

Milner picked up his team-leading sixth win of the season after Texas scored four runs in the fifth inning, despite not even registering a single hit in the first four frames. Senior shortstop Jordan Etier broke up Kansas junior pitcher Thomas Taylor’s no-hit bid with an RBI double before sophomore right fielder Mark Payton walked to load the bases.

Despite Texas not previously producing in most bases-loaded situations, freshman center fielder Taylor Stell singled and sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss doubled with the bases full of Longhorns in that pivotal fifth frame, when the Longhorns got three of their six hits. All of a sudden, a 2-0 Jayhawks advantage had turned into a 4-2 Texas lead.

“It’s very encouraging,” Weiss said. “We had been down that whole game. Once Jordan broke up that no-hitter and we had a walk, everything started going our way.”

The Longhorns also made an impressive comeback after losing the series opener Friday.

Kansas sophomore pitcher Frank Duncan retired 11 straight Texas hitters in a 7-2 Jayhawks win Friday night. But freshman pitcher Parker French helped Texas respond with a 3-0 victory Saturday evening by tossing seven scoreless innings, extending his number of consecutive scoreless innings at home to 32.1. He hasn’t allowed a run in 15 innings during his last two starts. The Longhorns are also 6-1 in their last seven games after a loss.

“I’ve just kind of simplified things,” French said. “The command and control of the pitches has been good lately. The defense has been awesome, especially tonight.”

This weekend marked the fifth straight series that Texas went into its Sunday contest having split the games played Friday and Sunday. After beating the Jayhawks, the Longhorns improved to 4-1 in those rubber matches. The victory also clinched Texas’ fifth straight Big 12 series win, a mark that will be tested when the Longhorns face No. 2 Texas A&M this week.

Printed on Monday, April 23, 2012 as: Texas pitches its way to series win