Players of the Kansas baseball team were flooded with elation as soon as the ball fell safely into the glove of right fielder Brett Vosik for the final out Sunday.
Members of the bullpen leaped over the wall and ran towards the mound. The dugout emptied at once to join the swarming of senior closer Stephen Villines, who had just nailed the final three outs of the team’s 5-4 victory over Texas in the series finale at Hoglund Ballpark.
It marked the second save for Villines in as many days, which moved him atop the KU all-time save charts, where he sits alone with 32 career saves. Afterward, Villines was less interested in his own personal accolades, but more enthusiastic about the team’s second series win over the Longhorns since 1996.
“This feels great, we have been battling every year it seems with Texas,” Villines said. “This is big time for us, especially moving forward.”
But the Jayhawks (12-15, 3-3) wouldn’t have been in that situation had it not been for an unlikely hero.
Sophomore left fielder Devin Foyle drove in the game’s decisive run with one on and two away in the eighth to break the 4-4 deadlock. Entering his final at-bat, Foyle had come up empty against Texas’ righty Blair Henley on his first three trips, including a strikeout in the sixth. He was actually 1-for-10 on the series leading up to his big moment.
“I honestly wanted to be in that moment, I have been struggling in the past,” Foyle said. “I just felt really confident in that moment. I really needed that, we really needed that as a team.”
Foyle fouled back a first-pitch fastball to begin the at-bat. Henley, who was taken in the 22nd round by the New York Yankees last summer, then missed on his next two pitches to fall behind in the count. There Foyle sat waiting for a fastball. So when he got it, Foyle choked up on the bat and booted it off the base of the center field wall.
KU center fielder Rudy Karre scored with ease from second to take a 5-4 advantage, as Foyle chased Henley out of the game with a stand-up double. During the pitching change, Foyle flashed a wide grin as his teammates mobbed him in the dugout. Of the five runs, three of them were notched by two-out hits.
“It’s nice to see those guys start to grow up,” KU coach Ritch Price said. “We have had numerous chances where young guys are in those situations and haven’t been able to clutch up.”
The Longhorns (19-12, 4-5) never trailed before KU’s lone extra-base hit on the day.
Texas charged righty Jackson Goddard with four runs off three hits over five innings, including a solo homer by Ryan Reynolds. Goddard, who came in averaging 2.97 walks per nine innings, issued six free passes and hit another batter.
Four different Kansas relievers — Jeider Rincon, Blake Weiman, Zack Leban, and Villines — spun a combined four scoreless innings, while allowing just one hit.
Meanwhile, Henley walked just one batter over 7 2/3 frames, in which he allowed five runs off six hits with five strikeouts. Second baseman James Cosentino (2-for-4) was the only Jayhawk to record a multi-hit effort.
“This is a big win for us, we are now 3-3 in conference,” Foyle said. “Especially from last year, this is a really big improvement. We really needed this as a team.”
Kansas will travel to Missouri State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
UT 002 110 000 — 4 4 0
KU 000 310 01x — 5 6 0
W — Zack Leban 1-1. L — Blair Henley 2-3. S — Stephen Villines 6.
2B — Devin Foyle, KU; Kody Clemens, UT. HR — Ryan Reynolds, UT.
KU highlights —Jackson Goddard, 5 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 3K; James Cosentino, 2-for-4, RBI; Devin Foyle, 1-for-4, 2 RBI.