Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics
ARLINGTON, Texas – Sophomores Ty Ruhl and Tyson Neighbors combined for Wildcats' first conference tournament shutout in 47 years, as K-State took down top-seeded Texas, 6-0, Thursday in an elimination game of the 2023 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship at Globe Life Field.
No. 5 seed K-State (34-23) bounced back in the second breakfast baseball game when the Wildcats recorded the program's first conference tournament shutout since 1976 where they defeated Colorado, 2-0, during the Big Eight tournament.
"Difference a day makes, crazy game but you're never too down when you have the chance to
coach tough kids and play for each other," fifth-year head coach Pete Hughes said on his team's victory. "All the corny stuff you know makes a difference when you're in the losers' bracket, you're battling through a lot of things out there today."
In the 123-year history of Wildcat baseball and second in the Hughes era, K-State picked up win No. 34. The victory also marks the first time since 2011 and 2013 that the Wildcats won 34 or more games twice in a three-year span.
"We all came to K-State to win championships. We're trying to get back in to play in this tournament to win a championship. Just really proud of our boys and how they responded," Hughes commented.
"We had some great effort, Ty Ruhl who's accustomed to coming out of the bullpen and basically got a start here for the second week in a row in a win or go home and was lights out against a fantastic offensive team. And he was sick all day doing it and didn't feel good and neither did our closer Tyson Neighbors, a little bug is going around."
Ty Ruhl and Tyson Neighbors combined for the Cats' fourth shutout of the season as the sophomores limited the Longhorns (38-20) to just two hits, their lowest of the season.
"Guys playing for each other, playing for their teammates. Just really exemplifying toughness, which is what we're all about."
Ruhl (4-4) tossed a one-hitter during his five innings in just his second career start as he retired 16 of the 21 batters he faced with four strikeouts to pick up the victory.
Neighbors, a product of Royse City, Texas, collected his 11th save of the season as he dominated in his four innings where fanned eight batters to match a career-high. Neighbors' 11 saves ties third in the program's single-season records.
Designated hitter Dom Hughes posted a career-high three hits to lead the Wildcats offense that totaled 13 hits. The junior from Boston, Mass., went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in alongside Nick Goodwin who recorded his 16th multi-RBI game of the season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Brendan Jones set the tone for the game when the Greenbrier, Tenn., native doubled down the right field line to lead off the elimination game. The sophomore would score the game-winning run on the Cats' second hit into right by Hughes.
Ruhl used 13 pitches to set down the Longhorns in order in the bottom of the inning with a pair of strikeouts to keep the Cats lead.
Leading 1-0, K-State made the call to the pen as Neighbors relieved Ruhl in the sixth. The closer allowed just one runner to reach base in the inning before striking out the final batter, leaving the Longhorns' sixth runner stranded at third.
The Cats' put away the game in the seventh with five runs on four hits and three walks. Kaelen Culpepper hit into right field before moving to third on a walk and single from Raphael Pelletier. With bases loaded, Jones drew his 43rd walk of the season to score Culpepper.
Cash Rugely and Hughes each registered an RBI to extend the Cats' lead out to four, leading to the Longhorns' second pitching change.
Goodwin launched a two-out two-RBI double off the left field wall to nail the final runs to the board.
Neighbors retired eight of the final 11 batters including punching out the last two batters to complete the shutout.
INSIDE THE BOX
- K-State scored six runs on 13 hits with two errors and seven left on base
- Ruhl and Neighbors combined for the shutout
- Hughes singled to score the game-winning run in the first
- K-State scored five runs in the seventh inning
- Goodwin hit a two-run RBI
- The Cats drew two walks that led to a pair of runs
- Hughes had a career-high three hits; went 3-for-4 at the plate
- Goodwin and Hughes each tallied two RBI
- Seven Wildcats registered a hit Thursday
- Hughes and Goodwin each tallied two RBI
- K-State hit four doubles
- Ruhl (4-4) was awarded the victory in his second career start
- Neighbors earned his 11th save; matched a career-high eight strikeouts
- UT was held to two hits with nine left on base
- Johnson (7-3) was credited the loss allowing two runs (two earned) in six innings
- The Longhorns' bullpen combined for four earned runs with three walks and one strikeout
- First time since 2011 and 2013 that K-State has won 34+ games twice in a three-year stretch
- First conference tournament shutout since 1976
- K-State moves to 20-25 all-time in the Big 12 Championship tournament
- Cats will face the loser of No. 4 TCU and No. 8 Kansas
- RECORD WATCH
- Texas leads the all-time series, 63-22
- K-State is 1-3 against UT during the conference tournament
- The Cats moved to 2-2 in the season series
K-State will face either No. 4 seed TCU or No. 8 seed Kansas Friday in an elimination game at 3 p.m. The game can be seen on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and the ESPN app. Radio coverage can be heard on the K-State Sports Network with live audio streaming at K-StateSports.com/Watch.