AUSTIN (KXAN) — The No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Conference baseball tournament is out after just two games.
Texas lost to fifth-seeded Kansas State 6-0 Thursday at Globe Life Field in Arlington to go 0-2 in the tournament and leave its NCAA regional hosting aspirations in question. Had the Longhorns won a couple of games in the tournament following a 3-game sweep of West Virginia, the selection committee would potentially be more inclined to put Texas in the top 16. Now, there’s another reason to send them on the road to start the NCAA tournament.
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Kansas State’s pitching and defending gave the Longhorns problems all game long. Texas didn’t get its first hit until an infield single in the fifth inning by Mitchell Daly, and even when the Longhorns made hard contact, the Wildcats were positioned well to make routine plays. Texas was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and Dylan Campbell had the Longhorns’ other hit. He extended with program record hitting streak to 35 games with a single in the eighth inning.
As the offense was kept at bay, the Longhorns were still in the game until Kansas State blew it wide open in the seventh. Lebarron Johnson Jr. tossed six innings and allowed two earned runs on eight hits, but things fell apart after the bullpen took over. Reliever David Shaw lasted a third of an inning before coming out with an apparent elbow injury after walking home a run, and Charlie Hurley allowed an RBI single and also walked a run home before Zane Morehouse took over. Morehouse allowed a 2-run double by Nic Goodwin before getting the final out of the inning, and by then the Wildcats tacked on five runs to turn a tight 1-0 game into a 6-0 runaway.
“We didn’t make in-game adjustments,” Longhorns head coach David Pierce said. “(Kansas State starting pitcher Ty) Ruhl was good, and we felt like going in that we needed to get after him because they’ve got the best closer in the country. We had an opportunity early, we just couldn’t capitalize.”
Texas had two runners on in the third after Ruhl walked Peyton Powell and hit Campbell with a pitch, but Ruhl got Garret Guillemetter to fly out to right field to end the threat. Ruhl, who has been used as a relief pitcher all season, pitched five innings of one-hit ball with four strikeouts and three walks. Tyson Neighbors, the man Pierce was referring to as the best closer in the country, mowed through the Longhorns to pick up his 11th save of the season. He pitched four innings and had eight strikeouts with three walks, allowing the single to Campbell.
“Hitting is up and down,” Pierce said. “The hard piece about it is fighting through the down times when you feel like you’re right and not having success, and the ability to fight through it is the mental toughness you have to have.”
Now instead of playing more baseball at Globe Life Field into Memorial Day Weekend, the Longhorns (38-20) now have to nervously wait for the host sites to be announced Sunday night with the entire NCAA tournament field coming out Monday. Pierce said his team could have controlled how the committee thinks of them a little better had they won some games in the Big 12 tournament, but in the end, he still thinks they’ve been good enough to host a regional.
“We could have controlled it more by showing up in the tournament, but at the same time, we’re the No. 1 seed in a top three or four conference in the country,” Pierce said. “With that being said, the committee has a tough job to do, but our body of work speaks for itself.”