After Texas’ 3-2 series opening win over TCU, starting pitcher Nolan Kingham told David Pierce, “Arlight Coach, now I’m back”. The junior right-hander turned in perhaps his best performance of the season since his complete game in the season opener against Louisiana Lafayette. Kingham went the distance against the Horned Frogs, throwing 116 pitches while allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 6 and walking 1. Let’s take a look at some thoughts and takeaways from a win that now has Texas only 1 game back of first-place Oklahoma State.
Masen Hibbeler told reporters after the game that Kingham pulled out his old cleats before the game and used his warm up song from 2017. The right-hander wanted to turn the clock and regain his 2017 form that made him one of the best arms in the Big 12. It worked, as Kingham showed vastly improved command of all his pitches, including his heavy sinker that induced 12 groundball outs.
Kingham pounded the strike zone for much of the night, and used his slider as an effective put away pitch. It was eerily similar to what helped Kingham have success last season. For David Pierce and the Texas pitching staff, Kingham could not have picked a better time to return to his old ways.
Pierce said after the game he could tell Kingham wanted the ball tonight. After the 8th winning, Pierce went to Kingham and said they were going to go to Andy McGuire in the 9th. Kingham responded by saying “With all due respect, this is my game. I want the ball.” It was all David Pierce needed to hear, and his ace responded with a 1-2-3 9th inning.
At the plate, Hibbeler provided the big blow with his solo home run in the bottom of the 5th to put Texas ahead 3-0. After working a 2-0 count, the Texas left fielder crushed a fastball over the LF wall.
The 7th inning was where Longhorn fans began to hold their breath. After allowing a leadoff home run to AJ Balta to cut the Texas lead to 3-1, Kingham struck out Michael Landestoy before Johnny Rizer hit a line drive into CF that Austin Todd dove to try to catch. The second base umpire originally ruled Todd caught the ball despite the fact his glove came off as he rolled over, but the umpires came together and eventually overturned the call, awarding Rizer 2nd base. Todd was forced to leave the game with a separated shoulder. Rizer would end up scoring on a 2-out Connor Wanhanen single, but Kingham struck out Adam Oviedo to prevent further damage and keep the score at 3-2.
Todd’s replacement, Tate Shaw, ended the game by running down a deep fly ball in CF
Despite a hitless night, Kody Clemens continued to shine in the field. After an error in the top of the 3rd inning, Clemens responded with an outstanding diving stop in the 6th. It was a relatively quiet night for the Texas offense, who only mustered 5 hits, but TCU starter Nick Lodolo showed very good stuff for most the night.
With Oklahoma State losing their series opener to Texas Tech, 9-4, Texas now sits 1 game back in the Big 12 standings with 2 to play. Texas owns the tiebreaker and now has a real possibility of playing for a regular season Big 12 title on Saturday afternoon.