PROVO, Utah – Utility man Cody Shepherd hit a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth inning to give the BYU baseball team a 7-6 victory Saturday afternoon at Larry H. Miller Field.
The Cougars (19-15, 7-5 West Coast Conference) had production from multiple players coming off the bench to take the series. The Pilots (13-22, 5-7 WCC) grabbed an early 3-0 lead and didn’t score any earned runs during the game.
“Everybody got a chance today, including Daniel Welch,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “We were pulling pitchers off the bench to run the bases for us. We talk about and preach ‘just be ready’. I want to tip my hat to Collin Braithwaite and Cody Shepherd. He (Shepherd) is down to one strike and ends up getting it done. It’s tremendous to see these guys get a chance and I’m really happy for Collin and Cody.”
In the eighth inning, Portland took advantage of BYU’s fifth error of the game and a wild pitch to score the go-ahead run, 6-5.
Braithwaite, who replaced an injured Jarrett Jarvis in the seventh inning, led off with a single to left field to start the rally. Adam Law drew his second walk to put runners at first and second base. In his fourth at bat of the season, Shepherd smashed an 0-2 double to the wall in left-center to score Braithwaite and Law for the decisive runs, 7-6.
“It started from the beginning, just trying to keep my head in the game,” sophomore Shepherd said. “I knew the pitcher likes to throw curve balls and he left it up and gave me a pitch to hit.”
BYU reliever Matt Milke (2-1) came in for the final two innings and allowed one hit and one run to earn the win.
After the Cougars dug themselves into a 3-0 hole in the top of the first inning, Kelton Caldwell smacked a two-out double into the left field corner that landed about a foot inside fair territory to score Trace Hansen and Brock Whitney, closing the gap to 3-2.
Prior to Caldwell’s double, Hansen stroked a standup double to left-center field to get on base first and Whitney drew a walk.
Starting pitcher Keaton Cenatiempo settled down in the second inning, getting the first two batters to strike out and fly out, respectively. The third batter reached first on an infield single, but Cenatiempo caught the Pilot in a pickle as he tried to steal second base for the final out.
In the third inning, Whitney made an outstanding catch for the third out to prevent the Pilots from scoring more runs. Whitney made a great jump on a fly ball that took him close to 50 feet from first base into foul territory, catching the ball over his head.
BYU scored three runs off three singles in the bottom half of that frame to take the lead. Law drew a 4-0 walk to get on board first. Hansen moved him into scoring position with a sac bunt. Whitney was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second base.
Caldwell, Lopez and Jarvis hit three straight singles as the Cougars built a two-run lead. Caldwell singled up the middle to score Law and move Whitney to third base. Lopez’s single split the first baseman and the second baseman, plating Whitney and advanced Caldwell to third base. Jarvis laced a single under the third baseman’s glove, allowing Caldwell to trot home for a 5-3 lead.
The Pilots threatened to add runs in the sixth inning with runners on the corners and two outs. Reliever Jeff Barker got out of the jam by striking out the final batter to preserve the Cougar lead, 5-3.
Three consecutive errors by the Cougars in the seventh inning allowed Portland to tie the game at 5-5. Pilot batter, Michael Lucarelli, laid down a bunt that Barker fielded and flipped to Jarvis at home. Jarvis collected the ball just before a collision and held on to keep the score tied. On the play, Jarvis was injured and replaced by Braithwaite for the remainder of the game.
“It was just a crazy game,” Littlewood said. “You know we can go 10 games and not commit five errors. It was really just a frustrating game; an interesting game would be another way to put it. It’s just the mantra of our team, ‘we just don’t give up’. We just keep playing and play till the bitter end today.”
The Cougars return to action after finals are over to play Utah on Tuesday, April 23 at 6 p.m. MDT at Larry H. Miller Field. BYU then travels to Spokane, Wash. for a three-game conference series with Gonzaga that begins on Thursday, April 25 at 6 p.m. PDT. All four games will be broadcast live on KOVO 960 AM.