Starr, Snyder help take series opener 11-4

(Photo by BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)

PROVO, Utah -- A seventh-run fifth inning for BYU baseball led to an 11-4 victory over Gonzaga. Parker Starr led the Cougars with three hits and two RBI, while JC Snyder drove in three runs and was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Jeff Barker won his fourth game of the year after pitching 5.1innings and allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out three and walked four for the Cougars (18-25, 8-11). Freshman Hayden Rogers earned his first career save pitching the final 3.2 innings allowing one run on two hits and striking out three.

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"We put the pressure on and put a couple runs up late," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "I just like the mentality of our team right now. It's the best we've played this year." 

The Cougars scored first, but Gonzaga (18-25, 13-9) took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth. BYU scored seven runs in the bottom of the inning as 11 hitters came to the plate. Three straight singles against two different pitchers started the inning. Eric Urry's single was the third of the inning and scored Brennon Lund to make it 3-2  Gonzaga. A walk loaded the bases and Bret Lopez's base on balls scored a run to tie the game. 

Urry scored from third on a wild pitch to take back the lead before Snyder knocked a two-run double off the top of the left-field wall for a 6-3 BYU advantage. Hayden Nielsen finished the inning with a triple to the right-centerfield gap that scored two to make it 8-3.

Cougars added three more runs in the seventh inning as Starr singled in two runs, scoring Jarrett Jarvis and Snyder. Three pitches later, Urry drove a single past the diving glove of the second baseman and scored Nielsen for an 11-3 Cougar lead.

The Cougars scored first in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs, Lopez drew a walk and Jarvis singled him to second. Snyder singled through the left side to score Lopez without a throw and take a 1-0 lead.

Starr and Jarvis extended their hitting streaks to four games, while Lopez had his team-best, five-game hitting streak snapped.

"You can see in the rest of our lineup that everyone's been hitting well," Starr said. "My pitch that I like is the fastball away and they gave that to me a lot today."

Barker and Rogers combined to limit the Bulldogs to four runs on seven hits and struck out six. The Bulldogs' leadoff hitter reached base in five straight innings, from the second to the sixth inning, but were only able to get a run across in one of those innings.

"We were living on the edge there in the first four innings," Littlewood said. "(Barker) did a good job pitching out of trouble the first few innings and we turned a double play in the eighth inning, which was big." 

In the top of the fifth, Gonzaga scored three runs to take their first lead of the game. Two walks to start the inning led to a sacrifice bunt and a lined single to centerfield by Caleb Wood to score two runs. Wood moved to third on a groundout and a wild pitch. He scored the Bulldogs' third run on a strikeout that would have been the third out, but skipped away from the catcher and allowed the batter to reach safely and Wood to score.

Gonzaga scored its final run in the top of the ninth. A bloop double to left scored Mitch Gunsolus from second to make it 11-4.

The Cougars and Bulldogs face each other again on Friday night at 6 p.m. MDT at Larry H. Miller Field as BYU's Kolton Mahoney faces Gonzaga's Brandon Bailey. The final game of the series will be on Saturday at 1 p.m. MDT.