LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior Kevin Kuntz’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth brought home Tucker Tharp with the go-ahead run and three Jayhawk relievers held Texas scoreless over the final four innings as Kansas earned a 4-3 victory over the Longhorns Sunday in the rubber game of the three-game set at Hoglund Ballpark.
Kansas, which won in extra innings on Friday night, improves to 22-13 overall and 7-5 in Big 12 play, while Texas drops to 19-15 and 4-8 in the league. The series win was KU’s first over the Longhorns since 2009.
In a see-saw battle that had the lead changing hands three times, the Jayhawks delivered the knock-out blow by taking advantage of two Texas miscues in the sixth inning. After Tharp reached on an error with one out, he advanced all the way to third when Longhorn catcher Jacob Felts tried to retire him at second base following Justin Protacio’s sacrifice attempt. The junior outfielder, who had the game-winning RBI Friday night, then scored on Kuntz’s soft ground ball to short, giving KU a 4-3 lead.
Relief pitchers Frank Duncan and Jordan Piché did the rest. Duncan, who made his third appearance out of the bullpen this season, picked up the win by tossing 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Piché earned his eighth save of the year by pitching the final 1 2/3 innings. His eight saves are the most by a Jayhawk since Paul Smyth collected nine saves in 2009.
After spotting the Longhorns a 1-0 lead, the Jayhawks came back to tie the game in the third and took the lead with two runs in the fourth. In a 1-1 game, freshman Tommy Mirabelli and junior Ka’iana Eldredge reached to start the inning with Mirabelli coming around to score when Justin Protacio beat out a double play ball to keep the frame alive. Then, after a Kuntz single, Michael Suiter gave KU a 3-1 lead with a two-out base hit to left center.
Kansas starter Robert Kahana allowed just one run in his first four innings of work before running into trouble in the fifth. After a walk and a Madison Carter double, the Longhorns tied the game on a RBI single by Erich Weiss and a sacrifice fly by Ty Marlow.
Texas looked to take the lead, by loading the bases with two outs against relief pitcher Drew Morovick, however the sophomore righty got a fly out by Collin Shaw to end the threat.
Kahana, who was making his first start in a Big 12 game, went four innings and was charged with three runs on four hits with four walks and a strikeout. Morovick worked an inning and stretched his streak to 22 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
Eight of KU’s nine position starters collected one hit in the game with Tharp scoring two runs and Kuntz driving in a pair.
All three games of the KU-Texas series were decided by one run, moving the Jayhawks to 7-3 in one-run affairs.
The Jayhawks will look to keep the momentum going Tuesday when they travel to Creighton for a non-conference game at T.D. Ameritrade Park at 6:30 p.m. Fans can listen to the game on KLWN Radio (1320 AM) or on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access.