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BYU 5, Texas 4: Sixth-inning stumble costs No. 19 Longhorns a sweep

Texas head coach David Pierce watches his team play against Cal State Fullerton in March of last year in Austin. His Longhorns gave up five runs in the sixth inning on the way to losing the series finale to BYU.

Due to a messy sixth inning, Texas kept its brooms in the dugout on Saturday afternoon.

BYU scored all its runs in the sixth inning of a 5-4 win over No. 19 Texas at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. With the win, BYU avoided getting swept in a four-game series that began in the middle of the week.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Texas. The Longhorns are off to a 3-4 start.

"We were trying to go out there and finish the series strong," freshman pitcher Tanner Witt said. "We had a lot of momentum going into it. We showed a lot of fight there but ultimately didn't come up in the end."

Following an 11-1 win over BYU on Friday night, Texas first baseman Zach Zubia said the Longhorns often preach that they need to "win every single pitch." And for much of the series finale, Texas accomplished that goal.

Texas scored its first run in the opening inning when Douglas Hodo III hit his first home run of the season. A single by Silas Ardoin scored Zubia in the fourth. Cam Williams clubbed a two-run homer an inning later.

Up 4-0 after five innings, Texas appeared to be on cruise control. But the Longhorns were then forced to slam on their brakes.

To open the sixth inning, Tristan Stevens struck out BYU pinch-hitter Hayden Leatham. Leatham was the 12th straight batter to be retired by Stevens. Four consecutive singles, however, led to BYU's first run and Stevens' exit.

The Texas bullpen didn't fare much better. The Longhorns needed three pitchers — Caden Noah, Drew Shifflet and Witt — to get the final two outs of the inning. With the bases loaded, Noah hit a batter and surrendered a sacrifice fly. BYU (3-5) then took the lead when Brock Watkins singled in two runs off of Shifflet.

After the game, Pierce blamed himself for the bullpen's implosion. Pierce said that instead of playing the matchups, he should have immediately gone to Witt.

"We've got to make a better choice right there," Pierce said. "It's probably my fault for putting them in that situation."

Stevens left the game having allowed four runs and six hits over 5.1 innings. Stevens gave up only two hits over his first five innings of work, but that run of singles started as the junior began to go through BYU's batting order for a third time.

A week ago against Arkansas, Stevens was again solid before running into trouble in the sixth inning. Ahead of this season, none of Stevens' 33 appearances at Texas had lasted more than 2 1/3 innings. 

"I don't think it's a concern yet, I truly don't," Pierce said of his starter's sixth-inning shortcomings. "Again, we get to know that maybe his tops is 85, 90 pitches and he can still eat up a lot of innings because he's such a good strike thrower. That's information as well."

After falling behind BYU, Texas twice stranded runners in scoring position. In the ninth, Texas sent pinch runner Lance Ford to replace Ardoin at second base with no outs. Eric Kennedy was called out after he made contact with the sacrifice bunt he attempted, and UT then ended the game with a flyout and groundout.

Around the bases: After entering the game in the sixth inning, Witt retired all 10 of the batters he faced. BYU went 0-for-13 with six strikeouts against Witt this week.... The three hits that drove in Texas' four runs on Saturday were delivered on two-strike pitches. ... Both teams were warned by the umpiring crew after Zubia was hit in the head by a Jack Sterner pitch in the fourth inning. ... Texas will return to action on Tuesday with a home game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.