SAN DIEGO--All-American Kris Bryant hit a walk-off, three-run home run to lead pre-season favorite San Diego to a 7-5 victory Thursday over BYU in the league opener.
The Toreros (12-6) snatched the victory away from BYU (9-8) in the West Coast Conference debut after the Cougars took a 5-4 lead in the seventh. Bryant, the reigning WCC Player of the Week, homered three times, each to lift USD over, even and over BYU.
"We played well enough to win," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "I'm heart-broken for our players who went against a good team in a hostile environment. We didn't throw enough strikes in the seventh and eighth innings. We can't afford to give up walks when we think they don't matter, because it hurt us when we had to face Kris (Bryant) again."
BYU used a couple defensive gems to protect its third lead of the game. Brennon Anderson fielded a chopper behind second and flipped to shortstop Hayden Nielsen to end the seventh after Desmond Poulson intentionally walked Bryant. Nielsen turned an inning-ending double play in the eighth as James Lengal became the second reliever on the mound for BYU.
BYU took the initial 1-0 lead when Jacob Hannemann opened the game with a count of 1-1 before homering over the right-field fence.
The Toreros evened the score in the second after a Louie Lechich triple, then took a 3-1 advantage when Bryant belted a two-run homer with no outs in the third. Bryant tied the score with a solo shot, his second homer of the night, in the fifth, 4-4.
Earlier in the fifth, Jaycob Brugman lined a three-run, one-out homer for a 4-3 BYU lead.
Among the missed Cougar opportunities was in the sixth frame when they loaded the bases. Torero freshman PJ Conlon adequately replaced Michael Wagner, striking out consecutive Cougars to end the inning. Conlon ended up improving his record to 4-0.
"I'm proud of the way Desmond (Poulson) pitched," Littlewood said. "We came out inspired and will have to have short memories as we get ready for the next game."
The two teams meet again Friday evening.
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