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Texas 12, BYU 6: Longhorns bump BYU behind season's best offensive outing

Texas' Douglas Hodo III slides home with a run in the second inning of a 12-6 win over BYU on Thursday.

After a slow start to its season, Texas finally got its offense going Thursday.

Faced with an early deficit, the 19th-ranked Longhorns pounded out 15 hits in a 12-6 victory over BYU at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. It was the second straight win for Texas, which had opened a four-game series against the Cougars on Wednesday.

The 15 hits were the most for the Longhorns since they had 18 in a 17-3 win over Texas Southern on March 12, 2019. Texas last scored a dozen runs in a blowout of TCU later that season.

"Honestly, there’s a lot more in there," pitcher Palmer Wenzel said of the Texas offense. "The hits were great today, and the runs were awesome, but they’ve got a lot more stored in there than what we showed today."

With redshirt freshman Justin Eckhardt making his first career start, Texas (2-3) quickly ran into trouble. He loaded the bases in the first inning with three walks before BYU (2-4) struck first on a sacrifice fly. Jacob Wilk then gave the Cougars a 4-0 lead with a three-run shot to right field.

It was the sixth homer the Longhorns have surrendered this season, and it was a memorable moment for the only Texan on BYU's roster. Back in 2016, Wilk was the starting shortstop for a Salado team that played for the Class 4A state championship at Disch-Falk.

Wilk's homer put Texas in an early hole. The Longhorns got two unearned runs back in the first inning, and Mike Antico drove in three runs and scored as well in the second. The Longhorns bunted home a run in the third and tacked on another run in the fourth.

After four innings, Texas held an 8-5 lead. Over its first four games of the season, UT had scored seven runs.

Texas pitcher Justin Eckhardt delivers a pitch against BYU on Thursday. The Longhorns used four pitchers in all.

The Longhorns entered Thursday with a .163 team batting average. But every player in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit, and seven of them scored. 

Facing four BYU pitchers, Texas had only one extra-base hit. The Longhorns scored on two of their three bunt singles, and Cam Williams brought in a run in the seventh inning when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

“Whether you’re swinging the bat and hit a ball in the gap or you get a base hit on a drag bunt, it builds confidence,” Texas coach David Pierce said. “I just felt like that’s how we needed to play today. I think (bunting is) going to be a part of our offense. We’ve always said we want to score in multiple ways, and we were able to utilize our speed.”

Four UT pitchers worked a shift Thursday. Wenzel was credited with the victory. Relying on his fastball, Wenzel allowed three hits over 3 1/3 innings of shutout relief.  

Wenzel was called upon with two on and two out in the fourth inning. He walked the first batter he faced but then got one of his three strikeouts against Austin Deming, who had homered and doubled against UT on Wednesday. That bases-loaded strikeout preserved a 7-5 lead for the Longhorns.

When Texas signed Wenzel as a graduate transfer from UT-San Antonio, Pierce thought his team had secured a potential closer. In his 4.1 innings as a Longhorn so far, Wenzel has struck out five batters while giving up three hits and no runs. Wenzel also appeared in Texas’ season opener against Mississippi State this past Saturday.

“To me, he’s been better the last two outings than he was in the fall, than he was in the early spring," Pierce said. "That’s a good sign because then you look up and say this guy likes the competition. When something’s on the line, he wants the ball.”

Around the bases: Freshman Tanner Witt served as UT's designated hitter and picked up his first career hit. His first two appearances this season were as a relief pitcher, and he earned the save in Wednesday's 3-1 win. ... BYU committed five errors. ... Ty Madden (0-1, 6.75 ERA) is Texas' scheduled starter against the Cougars on Friday. ... After being classified as unavailable for the opener of this four-game series, both Zach Zubia and DJ Petrinsky played Thursday.