The offense for the No. 19 Texas Longhorns finally thawed out on Thursday in the second game of the four-game series against the BYU Cougars, as the Longhorns cranked out 15 hits from nine different players in a 12-6 afternoon win at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
The production started early and largely remained consistent for the Longhorns, who scored in six of eight innings, including two runs in the first, four runs in the second, and four runs in the seventh. Head coach David Pierce’s team only struck out five times.
Against a team playing its sixth game in sixth days, Texas took advantage of the BYU pitching staff. If last weekend in Arlington featured the Horns pressing against high-quality pitching, Thursday’s result reflected better approaches at the plate and the positive feedback loop of having players on base. Instead of pushing for big swings to change the game, Texas hitters were able show a better command of the strike zone and execute, whether it was getting base hits, putting down bunts, or hitting sacrifice flies.
With five errors in the game leading to two unearned runs, BYU struggled to execute defensively, but those struggles were a result of much improved execution across the board.
It started early, as Texas left fielder Eric Kennedy reached on an infield single in the first inning, advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt, then scored on a single by shortstop Trey Faltine. It was Faltine’s first hit of the season after some positive swings on Wednesday as the Houston-area product eventually scored himself after he advanced on a flyout by catcher Silas Ardoin and then scored on another failed pickoff attempt.
Faltine finished with two hits, two RBI, two runs scored, a walk, and a sacrifice fly in an impressive all-around performance at the plate.
In the bottom of the second, the Longhorns continued the positive approaches at the plate, shortening swings and not trying to do too much with hittable pitches. Back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game, Zach Zubia got his first hit of the season, the first of three on the day for the first baseman.
Second baseman Dylan Campbell followed with the first hit of his Longhorns career on a full count and right fielder Douglas Hodo III loaded the bases with an infield single on a well-placed bunt. After center fielder Mike Antico worked a full count of his own, he came through with another big hit, doubling down the right-field line to clear the bases. Faltine scored the fourth run of the inning with his sacrifice fly.
In the third inning, Hodo put down another successful bunt to score designed hitter Tanner Witt from third after Witt led off the inning with a single and Zubia notched his second single of the game.
Singles from Faltine and third baseman Cam Williams set up a sacrifice fly by Ardoin to score in the fourth.
In the sixth, the Longhorns scored four runs after continuing to put pressure on the Cougars defense. Zubia got on base to start the inning with his third single, pinch runner Lance Ford advanced to third on a throwing error on second baseman Murphy Stehly’s bunt, and Hodo hit a sacrifice fly. Another bunt from right fielder Eric Kennedy resulted in a base hit and scored Stehly. Faltine then worked a 10-pitch walk and Williams was hit by a pitch to drive in Antico. A single into right field by Ardoin scored Kennedy.
Antico had the only extra-base hit for Texas in the game, but six walks, two sacrifice bunts, and three sacrifice flies helped showcase the level of execution at the plate for the Longhorns.
On the mound, right-hander Justin Eckhardt made his first start after appearing once over the weekend and once last year following Tommy John surgery that kept him out in 2019. The results weren’t pretty as Eckhardt gave up four runs in two innings thanks to four walks against only a single hit by BYU. The lone hit was a big one, too — a three-run home run by the Cougars.
But the bullpen came through with seven strong innings, picking up for Eckhardt’s struggles.
Left-hander Lucas Gordon got himself into trouble in the fourth inning, allowing a run and leaving runners on second and third with two outs. Grad transfer right-hander Palmer Wenzel entered the game and cleaned up the mess after loading the bases with a walk by striking out Austin Deming.
Pierce was able to stretch out Wenzel, who had good movement and solid velocity on his sidearm, sinking fastball, going 3.1 innings and throwing 52 pitches, scattering three hits and striking out two more batters after getting out of the fourth with the Deming punch out.
Left-hander Austin Wallace closed out the game over the final two innings in his third career appearance.
“We were embarrassed coming out of there,” Pierce said of the disappointing trip to Arlington.
On Thursday, the Longhorns took out that embarrassment on the Cougars in a performance that helped boost the confidence of virtually every Texas player who stepped to the plate — pinch hitter DJ Petrinsky’s strikeout in his only plate appearance made him the only Longhorn who didn’t have a productive at bat.
Friday’s game, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Central on Longhorn Network, will feature No. 1 starter Ty Madden on the mound and a chance for the Longhorns hitters to consolidate the momentum generated with Thursday’s heartening efforts.