(Photo by Mark A Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – Desmond Poulson threw a one-run game and Bret Lopez fueled a seven-run third inning to lead BYU to an 11-1 victory over Saint Mary's Thursday night.
With tonight's win at Larry H. Miller Field, BYU (28-19, 13-9) moves one game closer to a pivotal win over Saint Mary’s (21-32, 11-11) to clinch a berth in the West Coast Conference tournament. Saint Mary’s faces elimination tomorrow with a loss to the Cougars.
In eight innings, Poulson allowed one run on eight hits to improve to 7-2 on the season. Three errors and struggles from the mound plagued the Gaels, as the Cougars finished with 11 runs on 16 hits. Second baseman Brennon Anderson went 3 for 4 with three RBI and Dakota Hernandez finished 3 for 5 with two RBI of his own.
"I was really happy with how we came out ready to play," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "I didn’t sense that we were flat, everybody was on point and ready to go. Desmond did a great job for us on the mound."
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Both teams remained scoreless through two innings before the Cougars found their bats in the bottom of the third inning, scoring seven runs and batting through the order.
With the bases loaded and one out, left fielder Kelton Caldwell singled to left field to drive in Adam Law. BYU’s next batter, Bret Lopez doubled a line drive that ricocheted off the third base bag into left field scoring two more runs. Two more Cougar runs were scored after Hernandez singled down the right field line to drive in Caldwell and Lopez.
Later in the inning with two runners on base, Jacob Hannemann doubled after a high pop-up dropped in left field territory, scoring Hernandez. Anderson singled to shortstop, scoring Hayden Nielsen, ending Ben Griset’s night from the mound. Coming in for relief, Kelsey Outram collected the final two outs striking out Jaycob Brugman and Brock Whitney looking. The Cougars scored seven runs in the inning, tying their season high, collecting seven runs in one inning against Creighton.
“We wanted to get on top of them early and not let them stay in the game” Hernandez said. “That big seven run inning we had helped us establish that lead and not allow them to really scrape back.”
In the top of the fourth, Saint Mary’s Brenden Kalfus singled to left field to extend the WCC-record hitting streak record to 35 games. Poulson made a nice defensive play from the mound, turning a ball to Anderson who converted the double play. The Cougars turned two double plays in the game ending a four game drought with no double plays.
After two scoreless innings, Saint Mary’s got on the board in the top of the sixth inning. Leading off for the Gaels, Cole Norton drove a deep ball over the center field wall to record his second home run of the season, narrowing the Cougars lead to six runs.
BYU added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to extend their lead to 8-1. With two outs and runners on first and second, Nielsen singled up the middle straight through the pitcher’s legs to drive in Lopez from second.
The Cougars cruised to an 11-1 victory after adding three more runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Chunner Nyberg closed out the game helping the Cougars to its final three outs.
"In the third inning we were fortunate, we hit the ball hard a couple of times, then we got a couple good hops and flared one in," Littlewood said. "It was a perfect storm for Saint Mary’s. They hung in there and had a couple good at-bats. Something tells me it’s not going to be as easy tomorrow to put up runs. They’re going to come out fighting."
Facing a pivotal second game of the series, BYU returns to action against Saint Mary’s Friday at 6 p.m. MDT with live coverage on BYUtv.