Brock Whitney went 3 for 4 with an RBI, scoring two runs and this pickoff in a 9-6 to league-leading Pepperdine. (Photo by Mark A Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – Pepperdine avoided the sweep, beating the BYU baseball team 9-6 Saturday afternoon at Larry H. Miller Field in front of a home-season best crowd of 1,593.
The Cougars (13-14, 2-4, West Coast Conference) recorded 11 hits in the game, led by Brock Whitney who went 3 for 4 and Bret Lopez who went 3 for 5 with an RBI apiece. The league-leading Waves (15-11, 6-3 WCC) recorded 15 hits on the afternoon.
“Playing catch-up with a good team like this on day three of a series when our pitching is a little light, is just really tough and hard to overcome,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “I just felt like we were scratching and clawing, but we could never really catch them. That’s what it felt like the whole time. But our guys didn’t quit and that that’s what I told them after the game. We have to play well and we just kept battling the whole game.”
Pepperdine got on the board first, tallying three runs in the opening frame for an early 3-0 advantage.
BYU responded in the bottom half of that same inning, scoring three runs off four singles. Jacob Hannemann stroked a lead-off single up the middle to start things off. Adam Law joined him on base after being hit by a pitch. Whitney hit the first of three straight singles to left field to plate Hannemann. With runners on the corners, Jarrett Jarvis singled to left to score Law. Lopez hit the third single to left, scoring Whitney and tying the game at 3-3.
The Waves added another run in the third to put them up 4-3. On the fourth attempt, reliever Keaton Cenatiempo, who was tagged with the loss (1-2), picked off Ranny Lowe for the final out of the inning.
Pepperdine increased its lead in the top of the fourth, scoring four runs after loading the bases without any outs.
Cougar shortstop Hayden Nielsen singled off the pitcher’s glove and Brennon Anderson scored after a throwing error from the pitcher in second half of that inning. The Cougars loaded the bases with one out but scored one run off a sac fly by Law to center field to narrow the Waves’ lead to 8-5.
With the bases loaded and zero outs in the top of the fifth, two defensive plays prohibited the Waves from extending their lead. BYU reliever Matt Milke got Austin Davidson to hit a one-bouncer that Jarvis fielded and stomped on the dish and threw to first to complete the first of two double plays for the Cougars this series. Milke struck out Hutton Moyer swinging for the final out.
Milke pitched four strong innings, allowing one run on four hits to keep the game within reach for BYU.
“Our job as a bullpen is to keep the team in the game,” Milke said. “This was a great confidence boost for us; it shows that we’re battlers.”
Trace Hansen and Nielsen hooked up to turn double play No. 2 (4-6-3) in the eighth inning for the first outs of the frame. Pepperdine added its final run of the game on a single to right field that beat Jaycob Brugman’s throw home. Jarvis caught the runner trying to push to second for the final out of that inning.
“We played against a great Pepperdine team and we’ll take the series win,” Littlewood said. “I just told the guys if we had lost the first game and won the last two, we would feel a lot better walking out of the clubhouse today. To lose the last one, that’s the last taste in your mouth and it’s kind of tough to take. But overall, I told them to keep their heads up, we played great and we beat a great team.”
BYU returns to Larry H. Miller Field for a cross-town matchup with Utah Valley University Tuesday night at 6 p.m. MDT. That game will be broadcast live on BYUtv. Later in the week, the Cougars travel to California for a three-game series with conference foe Santa Clara beginning Thursday at 6 p.m. PDT, broadcast live over KOVO 960 AM Radio.