PROVO, Utah – Junior righthander Michael Rucker kept No. 25 Creighton Bluejays flightless as No. 20 BYU cruised to a 13-4 win Friday night at Miller Park.
Rucker took a no-hitter 7.1 innings against the Bluejays to set the tone in the first game of the series. He improved to 8-0 on the season, recording four strikeouts and giving up four earned runs.
“Mike (Rucker) did exactly what he's done all year for us,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “He came in and set the tone. He wasn't his sharpest tonight but he battled his tail off. I would have loved to see him get a no-hitter. I was a little tentative to send someone down to the pen because I didn't want to jinx it. Then we saw him getting kind of tired so we had (Bo) Burrup walk down slowly, but then we had to rush a little. I'm really proud of Mike.”
The Cougars (28-7) bolted out to the early lead and never looked back with 13 runs on 16 hits as Creighton (25-9) used six pitchers, going to the bullpen after the first 1.1 innings of game.
“We took it as a personal challenge to have really good at-bats and to build the pitch count,” Littlewood said. “From the first inning to the second, it was a tremendous adjustment for us to play because the guys came in, talked about it and made adjustments to get the ball in the zone. Those guys made the changes immediately. We didn't swing at the shin-high pitches and we made them bring the pitches up. Our hitters did a great job tonight.”
Third baseman Jackson Cluff went a perfect 4 for 4 to lead BYU at the plate. Fueling the team with three RBI apiece were centerfielder Brennon Lund with three hits and shortstop Hayden Nielsen with two. Left fielder Eric Urry, right fielder Keaton Kringlen and second baseman Daniel Schneemann each had two hits in the win.
The Cougars retired six of the first seven batters to begin the game.
After putting the first batter on base in the second with a hit-by-pitch, Rucker got the next three Bluejays out with a strikeout, a pickoff at first and a fly-out.
Urry led off the bottom of the second with a double down the left-field line. Kringlen wasted no time getting the first RBI of the game with a single to right-center field to score Urry.
Later in the inning Schneemann walked to load the bases before Lund drew a walk with the bases juiced for the 2-0 lead with one out.
The Cougars went on to score two more on bases-loaded walks by Nielsen and Shaver to lead 4-0 after the first two innings.
BYU retired the side again in the third and continued to put runs on the board with three more.
Kringlen and Cluff walked and singled. Then with one out, Schneemann had an RBI-single. A subsequent throwing error by the right fielder advanced runners to second and third.
After a Creighton pitching change, Lund singled to right field to plate Cluff. Nielsen followed with a groundout to short, scoring Schneemann for the 7-0 advantage.
In the fourth inning BYU held Creighton scoreless before adding two more runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Another 1-2-3 inning for the BYU defense sent the game to the bottom of the fifth where the Cougars tacked on another run. Tanner Chauncey’s sacrifice fly allowed Lund to score for the 10th run of the game.
BYU added three more runs to its total in the bottom of the seventh. Lund’s triple to center scored Schneemann who singled up the middle. Nielsen came up with another RBI on a groundout to the shortstop to plate Lund.
Brock Hale’s substitution for Chauncey as designated hitter paid off as he homered to center to give the Cougars the 13-0 lead after seven.
In the top of the eighth, the Bluejays broke on to the scoreboard after Rucker’s no-hit bid ended. Back-to-back one-out walks preceded Creighton’s first hit of the game—an RBI-single through the right side.
Two more runs scored on a triple to left-center, bringing Rucker’s outing to a close. One more run scored for the Blue Jays for the eventual 13-4 final tally.
“The main way they were going to score runs is if they took advantage of mistakes, which they did in the 8th inning, and if they used their speed,” the pitcher Rucker said. “The biggest thing is trying to get the leadoff guy out, and for the most part, we did a good job of that. It shut down their running game when they couldn't get anyone on base. That'll be key for Hayden Rogers and Jordan Wood Saturday in the doubleheader. They'll just need to minimize baserunners and mistakes. We've got a great defense and we've just got to use (it).”
BYU and Creighton resume their series with a doubleheader on Saturday with game times slated for noon and 3 p.m. MDT. Both of the games will be available for live streaming on TheW.tv and fans can listen to the radio broadcast on ESPN 960 AM.