PROVO, Utah –Rallies in the seventh and ninth innings weren’t enough as the BYU baseball team fell to Portland 8-4 at Larry H. Miller Field Thursday night.
The Cougars (17-15, 5-5 West Coast Conference) struggled early in the game to register hits and were kept off balance by Portland’s pitching. The Pilots (13-20, 5-5 WCC) finished with five extra base hits and 11 overall.
“I think that (Billy) Sahlinger did a great job keeping us off balance,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “He just really pounded the zone and threw strikes. I think the first inning was probably the key inning. When we had the bases loaded with one out and just didn’t get the job done, that just really set the tone for the game and gave him a little bit of confidence on the mound that they were just going to go after us.”
Starting Cougar pitcher Adam Miller (2-6) went five innings, gave up six hits, four earned runs and was tagged with the loss.
Portland scored the first run of the game in the second inning to take an early 1-0 lead.
BYU responded in the bottom of that frame to tie the game. Kelton Caldwell drilled a double to center that landed on the warning track and rolled to the wall. Jarrett Jarvis laced a single up the middle that bounced just behind second to score Caldwell and even the score at 1-1.
The Pilots added another run in the third to extend their lead to 2-1.
After Portland scored twice in the fifth inning, Miller got the Pilots to ground into a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning and keep more runs off the board.
In the top of the seventh inning, Caldwell made a sweet, diving catch in left field for the second out and to spark a little momentum for BYU.
“I feel like we came out a little flat today and we needed that spark,” Littlewood said. “This was a league game and we should be ready to play from the get-go and tonight I just don’t feel like we were.”
The Cougars went on a mini-run in the bottom half of that frame. Caldwell drew a walk to start things off. Jarvis singled it right back to the pitcher and reached first when no one covered the bag. Hayden Nielsen laid down a sac bunt to advance Caldwell and Jarvis to third and second, respectively.
Jacob Hannemann singled right up the middle to score Caldwell and Jarvis and decrease the Pilot’s lead to 5-3.
Portland added three runs in the top of the final inning of the game to increase its lead, 8-3.
Hannemann got a tremendous jump on a liner to center and made a spectacular, front-diving catch for the last out of that frame.
With three outs left in the game, Nielsen reached second on an error when the right fielder dropped a fly ball just inside fair territory. Hannemann doubled to left-center field to plate Nielsen and score the final run of the game, 8-4.
Game two of the three-game series begins tomorrow at 6 p.m. MDT at Larry H. Miller Field. The game will be broadcast live on BYUtv and KOVO 960 AM.