Horns pack winter clothing for rare chilly trip to Kansas

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Outfield Mark Payton bats against Texas Tech in last weekend’s series. Payton and the Longhorns begin a three-game trip to Kansas tonight.

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

Swirling winds, wintry temperatures and possible thunderstorms await No. 7 Texas tonight in game one of its three-game series against the Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan.

According to head coach Augie Garrido and just about every other warm-blooded Longhorn, the weekend conditions will be cold, numbing and miserable.

But enjoyable?

Chicago native Mark Payton thinks so, and he’s definitely in the minority.

“With the weather like that, it’s going to be fun,” said the freshman right fielder. “In high school, I used to play in the snow. I know some of my teammates have never even seen snow, so that’ll be new to them.”

Payton likens the probable conditions at Kansas’ Hoglund Ballpark to a frozen tundra best suited for the Bears or the Packers of the NFL.

“This will be like northern football weather. We just have to be tough,” he said.

Texas does have some experience playing in inclement weather this year. A weekend series at Oklahoma State in late March saw temperatures that stayed in the 40s. The team didn’t fare very well, dropping two of three games to the
Cowboys.

“It was cold when we went to Oklahoma State, and we had a little trouble with that,” said freshman Erich Weiss. “But hopefully that will help us prepare for this weekend.”

In 2009, when the Longhorns last played in Lawrence, temperatures hovered around 60 degrees, and Texas was swept in three games. This weekend will be much colder — The Weather Channel projects lows in the 40s — with high chances of rain and winds that may gust up to 20 mph.

“It’s going to be cold, and it’s going to be raining,” Garrido said. “Kansas always plays us tough up there. We will have to battle it out. One nice thing is they’re the only team with a lower batting average than us.”

Texas has struggled all season to consistently hit the ball, with a collective batting average of .258, while the Jayhawks’ average is a shade lower at .251.

The Longhorns’ bats have been especially cold lately, averaging just 3.25 runs and 5.25 hits the past four games.

“We have to keep playing our game. We’ve been hitting balls well, but they’re going right to the opposing position players,” Weiss said. “We have to keep hitting, and those balls will drop in for us.”

Until they do, Texas (28-9, 11-4 Big 12) will keep relying on its pitching staff. Led by tonight’s starter Taylor Jungmann, the Longhorns boast a combined 2.32 ERA, one of the best in the nation. Against the weak-hitting Jayhawks (19-18, 8-7), it could end up being the difference.

Then again, when you’re playing out of your element in such miserable conditions, it’s wise to throw any preconceived advantages out the window.

“Whoever is tougher is going to win,” Payton said. “Nothing else matters. We just have to try and not let the cold get to us.”