AUSTIN, Texas — It is hard to know when the tide turned for the Texas baseball team. Maybe it was on the drive home from an 0-3 weekend in Arlington, or during Wednesday's victory over BYU, but either way, the Longhorns captured their first win of the season, 3-1, over the Cougars at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Coming home did little to mend UT's season-opening hitting slump, as the Horns mustered a grand total of four hits. But they used those hits effectively, including the first which came on a long homer to deep center field by third baseman Cam Williams to give Texas an early 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the third.
"Offensively, I thought we made some improvements," Texas head coach David Pierce said. "We're still a long ways away. We still have to continue our plate discipline and we have to get into a flow of our offense, which is hard to do when we're not getting our leadoff hitters on base."
The final score should give some indictation, however, that the Longhorn pitching staff made up for the lack of offense. Starter Pete Hansen, who gave up in an earned run and three hits in a one-inning relief appearance Saturday against Mississippi State, looked spectacular on the mound. The sophomore threw just three innings, as the coaching staff tries to get him back into "game shape," but did not allow a hit and walked just two batters.
The bullpen also did its job, shutting out the Cougars for the first seven frames, with BYU scoring its only run on a solo home run by third baseman Austin Deming with one out on an 0-2 pitch in the eighth. That was the only blemish in righty Cole Quintanilla's stat line, as he threw two innings, giving up just two hits. Quintanilla (1-0) followed Drew Shifflet, who also bounced back from a performance to forget in Arlington, allowing only three baserunners while striking out three, in three innings of work. Freshman Tanner Witt made his Texas debut, closing out the game with a perfect three-up, three-down ninth.
Offensively, Texas broke the tie in the bottom half of the eighth on center fielder Mike Antico's first hit of the season, a clutch single through the right side of the infield, scoring second baseman Murphy Stehly and right fielder Douglas Hodo from second and third, respectively. Those go-ahead runs proved to be the difference, as BYU went stale offensively in the ninth.
"I think you're going to see more [from Antico]," Pierce said. "I was really proud of him, after he struck out in his first at-bat and coming back to have a pretty good night."
Although Pierce acknowledged that UT's hitting woes were not completely fixed, it was a step in the right direction for a ballclub that struck out 46 times in three games this past weekend.
"Hitting is tough," Pierce said. "I like the fact that we worked with some things yesterday and they came out today. That is, to me, progression. I know they listen, I know they want to be good, and I know they'll put in the work. We got to get mentally tougher when we're in the box."
Texas nearly went up, 2-0, in the third as Antico pulled a long fly ball down the line that Pierce, and pretty much the entire Texas dugout, thought was a home run. The men in black disagreed however, and Pierce's unhappy comments to the umpires in the ensuing moments saw him get ejected from the game.
"You should get rewarded when you hit a ball like that and it is fair," said Pierce matter-of-factly.
Pierce said first baseman Zach Zubia and catcher DJ Petrinsky "are not available right now," but that the team "could have some good news within the next 24 hours," Right fielder Austin Todd strained his oblique against Arkansas Sunday, and "will be on the shelf," as Pierce said, "most of this week."
Game two against BYU starts at 1 p.m. Thursday and can be seen on Longhorn Network.