MORAGA, California (April 14, 2016)—Saint Mary’s College broke a tie in the bottom of the ninth with a bases-loaded walk-off sacrifice fly Thursday for a 5-4 win over No. 16 BYU baseball.
Saint Mary’s (19-11) is now in a second-place tie with the Cougars (26-6), each with 9-4 records in the West Coast Conference, one-half game behind Gonzaga at 9-3.
“We have to give credit to St. Mary's, they got good pitching and timely hitting in the last couple innings and that was the difference in the game,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said.
The Cougars, who battled back from 1-0 and 4-3 deficits during the game, held a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning when the Gaels rallied to take a 4-3 advantage.
There was lots of sparring in what started out as a pitcher’s duel as the aces for both squads remained unblemished in their respective records as neither got a decision. With around 40 pro scouts watching pitchers Michael Rucker (7-0) of BYU and Corbin Burnes (5-0) of SMC, few were disappointed.
“Mike (Rucker) was as good as I've seen him for 6 1/3 today,” Littlewood said. “After getting an out in the seventh he lost the zone a little bit and they made him pay.
“Our hitters did a great job against Burnes. He didn't give us much to hit today, but we put together a lot of good at bats and chased him after six innings.”
BYU right fielder Keaton Kringlen tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth inning when he hit a sacrifice fly after the Gaels had taken a 1-0 lead on a pinch-hit home run by Ian McLoughlin. BYU put two runs on the board in the top of the seventh before the Saint Mary's rally gave the Gaels the lead again in the bottom of the same inning.
Three consecutive hits led off the eighth inning as Bronson Larsen singled in Kringlen to knot the game at 4-4. Then back-to-back strikeouts were registered by the Gaels.
Littlewood pulled out all stops when he brought in Noah Hill as a fifth infielder defensively to replace Kringlen with the bases loaded in the ninth, but Saint Mary's was able to pull out the victory.
All of BYU’s starters either scored a run or singled in the game.
The two teams meet for the second of a three-game series on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. PDT. That game will be the feature game streamed by the WCC on TheW.tv and broadcast live by ESPN Radio 960 AM locally as well as on BYU Radio—Sirius Satellite 143.