Tourney-bound after 4-2 win at Santa Clara
SANTA CLARA, California—Pitching and key defensive plays led BYU baseball to a 4-2 victory over Santa Clara on Saturday for a berth in next week’s West Coast Conference Championships.
Right fielder Derrick Whitney led the Cougars (27-23 overall and 15-11 in the WCC) with a diving catch to freeze speedy pinch runner Kyle Czaplak at first base in the eighth inning
“It really was the key play of the game, no doubt about it,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “Whit made a great play.”
“Ruck he didn’t have his best stuff,” Littlewood said. “I was hoping he (Rucker) could get through seven. He (Marshall) just has so much moxy. We just needed a strike-thrower. You have to play like that. Success breeds that a little bit.”
The Cougars never trailed behind Rucker as he tallied six strikeouts, four of which closed the first, third, fourth and sixth innings. Marshall fanned the final Bronco of the seventh frame and rang up the lead SCU batter in the ninth to earn his first save of the season and 10th in his two-year Cougar career.
Rucker also got double-play help from second baseman Tanner Chauncey, who teamed with first baseman Dillon Robinson to end the second inning and again with Robinson and shortstop Hayden Nielsen to start the sixth frame.
But the defensive gem belonged to Whitney, also responsible for BYU’s insurance run in the sixth with a sacrifice fly which plated Parker Starr, who batted 3-for-4 on the afternoon.
“He’s (Whitney) putting together really good at bats in the two hole and extends our lineup a little bit,” Littlewood said.
Cougar centerfielder Brennon Lund preceded Whitney in the order with the game-winning RBI, a one-out single also to left field in the sixth. Catcher Bronson Larsen accounted for BYU’s first run in the second from a lead-off double which extended his hitting streak to 23 games. Nielsen scored the second Cougar run on a sac-fly by Chauncey in the third.
Pending Sunday action in other league games, BYU could improve its seeding in the WCC tourney when it closes the regular season with a make-up game Monday at St. Mary’s (28-26, 10-16) at 2 p.m. PDT, a game which will not be broadcast by BYU radio, but will be streamed live on the Internet by TheW.tv.
Following Monday’s game, the Cougars remain in the Bay area to practice in Santa Clara on Tuesday before the tourney begins on Thursday in Stockton.
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