LBJ has a day, leading the Longhorns to a commanding 12-2 win


Joy Li

Texas’ Lebarron Johnson Jr. pitches against A&M-Corpus Christi on Feb. 21, 2022. Texas defeated A&M-Corpus Christi 12-2.

Evan Vieth, Senior Sports Reporter

Lebarron Johnson Jr. has been on the Forty Acres since 2021, but Tuesday’s game has been his most memorable performance as a Longhorn.

Johnson pitched the best game of his Longhorn career, striking out eight batters in over five innings and giving up just one run on three hits and three walks. The redshirt sophomore, who was recruited as one of the best starting pitchers, started his first game as a Longhorn against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi during the Longhorns 12-2 routing of the Islanders.

“LBJ was outstanding,” coach David Pierce said, “He looked so good — he continues that and he’s gonna be a big part of our pitching.”

Johnson spent his first season at Texas redshirting, but was given many opportunities out of the bullpen in the 2022 season. Up until this point, Johnson had worked strictly in relief, never pitching more than two innings and only facing three Big 12 opponents. In 2023, however, Coach Pierce has bigger aspirations for the 6’4 power right-hander.

“(Pitching coach) Woody (Williams) realized right away that this guy’s got the stuff, he’s got the body and he’s got the work ethic,” Pierce said, “They’ve just kind of bonded together…. that was outstanding to see that result.”

Johnson’s season started off shaky, giving up two runs in his relief appearance in the season opener versus No. 9 Arkansas and starting Tuesday’s game with a deep homerun off of the bat of junior Islanders designated hitter Tre Jones. However, Johnson recovered fantastically, giving up just two more hits in four innings and working efficiently with 70 total pitches thrown.

“It felt good just to see that my coach had confidence in me to start games,” Johnson said. “I think I did good today (but) still some things to work on.”

In addition, the Longhorns batting lineup looked much stronger on Tuesday, scoring 12 runs (nine earned) on 16 hits with six walks and two stolen bases. Texas’ offense also featured more small ball, stealing bases and bunting to move runners on and over.

“We’re not going to be banging it around as much this year as last year,” redshirt senior center fielder Eric Kennedy said. “Games like this are really good to work on to test our limits and see what we can do.”

Junior second baseman Jack O’Dowd was the biggest benefactor of the Longhorns new small ball philosophy. The Vanderbilt transfer reached base in all of his first three at-bats, with his two base hits accumulating three of the Longhorns first five RBIs. The lefty also added a triple in the eighth inning to cap off a three-for-four day with three RBIs and a run. The middle infielder is looking to break out in 2023 for Texas after a limited 2022 campaign, and the Longhorns will need his steady bat near the middle of the order throughout the 2023 season.

“He’s seeing the ball well,” Pierce said about O’Dowd, “He’s a leader in the clubhouse. He’s a leader in the (batting) cages. He’s a leader on the field.”

Freshman designated hitter Jalin Flores also added his first hit and homerun as a Longhorn with a solo shot in the bottom of the second inning. Flores and first baseman Jared Thomas added additional hits as the only two freshmen in the starting lineup.

“Obviously you don’t want to start the season out 0-3, we did a lot of things but we also took some positives from it.” Kennedy said. “(We) just (have to) get back out here, clear our minds, and get back to playing the game.”

Texas is staying in Austin for the weekend, hosting Indiana on Friday to kick off the first series of the season at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.