Bullpen woes strike again as the Longhorns fall to Kansas State

Evan Vieth, Senior Sports Reporter

Despite a stadium filled with pups of all shapes and sizes, the Longhorns failed to have that dog in them late in the game.

Texas fell to unranked Kansas State 6-5 on Saturday just 20 hours after a comeback victory filled with clutch situational batting and fierce bullpen work. The Longhorns looked like a completely different team on Saturday, failing to spark much batting past the fourth-inning rally and giving up four runs through the bullpen.

Sophomore reliever Tyson Neighbors truly stole the show in Austin with his “violent” off-speed and command.

“They did a good job getting the lead back and getting Neighbors in the game,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “He was the difference maker today.”

Neighbors entered the game in the seventh after a big inning that gave Kansas State the lead, and the Royse City product never looked back. Throwing just 48 pitches, the righty struck out eight of the 11 batters he faced and gave up just one hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to freshman first baseman Jared Thomas. Not even slightly rattled, Neighbors struck out senior center fielder Eric Kennedy without throwing a single ball to end the game.

“He did a good job of filling up the zone,” redshirt junior Peyton Powell said about Neighbors. “We need to be better (about) taking his pitches and hitting our pitches.”

On the opposite side of the outfield, the Longhorns’ bullpen struggled to hold back Kansas State’s run-producing offense. Redshirt sophomore Lebarran Johnson Jr. worked 2.1 innings from the fifth to the seventh and was responsible for four of Kansas State’s six runs and all three of its walks. After looking like a breakout candidate early in the year with an outstanding performance versus LSU, Johnson Jr. has struggled to find his footing on the team.

Redshirt junior Zane Morehouse worked excellently as a closer the night before, but he struggled in his first inning of work on Saturday. Though the runs were not credited to him since Johnson Jr. exited midway through the inning, Morehouse gave up two RBI singles and added a wild pitch in the seventh, allowing Kansas State to complete the three-run comeback and eventually win the game.

“I’m not concerned that they are overworking, I’m more concerned that they’re not throwing a breaking ball for a strike,” Pierce said about Morehouse going two nights in a row.

Though some individuals flashed offensive life, the Longhorns’ bats looked all but dead after the four-run fourth inning. After Powell’s fifth-inning solo shot, the Longhorns produced zero hits until Thomas poked a single into right with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

“It’s not really something you can control,” Powell said about the team’s streaky hitting nature on Saturday. “Like I said, take his pitches that they want us to swing at and hit the ones that we like.”

Texas falls to 5–3 in conference play and will look to bounce back in the rubber match on Sunday to decide the series. Depending on how the respective weekend series finales play out, the Longhorns have a chance to tie or take first place away from Oklahoma State in Big 12 play.