PROVO, Utah—Behind eight strong innings and a career-high 10 strikeouts from Michael Rucker, BYU baseball (12-1) defeated Niagara (2-12) at Larry H. Miller Field Thursday night, 14-1.
Rucker didn't go the distance, but threw 102 pitches over eight innings. Rucker only gave up three hits and one walk.
"I was just mesmerized by Mike (Rucker) tonight," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "I think it was the best performance I've seen from a BYU pitcher. He was just dominant. After our first two batters, all of the sudden we just exploded. I was really happy the way we hit and played defense. It was a perfect night."
Brennon Anderson, Nate Favero and Colton Shaver, all hit home runs during the game to earn a four-way tie with teammate Eric Urry for second on the team with three home runs apiece, behind Kyle Dean's four.
Anderson went 3-for-4 on the night, with a home run and two singles. Favero was 1-for-3 on the night, with a walk and a two-run homer. A solo home run by Shaver in the bottom of the seventh made him the fourth member of the team on top of the home run charts.
Hale’s perfect 3-for-3 night included a two triple, a walk and he was hit by a pitch.
After a three up, three down first inning for Rucker, the BYU bats heated up. Anderson's single up the middle and Urry' single to shallow right put them on base. Shaver scored the first run of the game on a single to right field. Hale added a two-RBI triple to right center to lead 3-0.
Niagara's Geoff Seto singled to end Rucker’s hitless game in the top of the third. Consecutive errors from the pitcher and catcher allowed Seto to score the first run for the Purple Eagles in the top of the third.
Anderson’s single to second started the third inning. Shaver singled to right field, but consecutive errors from the left fielder and the third baseman on the same play allowed Anderson to score. Hale’s RBI single scored Shaver, and Favero’s clout increased BYU's lead to 7-1.
The teams again had up-down innings in the fourth, and Rucker had four straight strikeouts through the fifth and sixth inning to maintain the Cougars’ lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Anderson hit a home run off of the scoreboard in left field to bring Hayden Nielsen in from first base.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Bronson Larsen walked to bring Hale home. Pinch hitter Daniel Schneemann’s single earned him an RBI, and a throwing error by the second baseman scored Larsen, increasing BYU’s margin to 13-1.
In the bottom of the eighth, Hale picked up his fourth RBI of the night on a triple off the center field wall to score Keaton Kringlen and earn the Cougars' last run, 14-1. Easton Walker came in during the ninth for the Cougars and had two groundouts and a strikeout to end the game.
BYU will continue its four-game homestand against Niagara on Friday and Saturday. The doubleheader on Friday will be at 3:00 p.m. MST, and Saturday’s game is at 12:00 p.m. MST. All games can be seen on TheW.tv and heard on BYU Radio—Sirius Satellite 143. Friday's nightcap and Saturday's game can be heard on ESPN 960 AM.