PROVO, Utah – No. 30 BYU baseball struggled on the mound in a 9-5 loss against Gonzaga at Larry H. Miller Field on Friday night.
“We were wild over the middle of plate today in bad spots,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “What we expected from Hayden Rogers was to throw quality strikes on both sides of the plate. He did it at times, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.”
BYU (29-10, 11-6 WCC) falls to third place in the West Coast Conference with the loss. The Cougars find themselves in a three-way battle for first with Gonzaga (25-14, 13-7 WCC) and Saint Mary’s (11-5 WCC).
Bronson Larsen had a homer, a double and three RBI. Brennon Lund and Tanner Chauncey had three-hit nights, while Hayden Nielsen and Eric Urry had two-hit performances. The Cougars outhit the Bulldogs 15-13 in the losing effort.
“I thought our hitters did a great job tonight,” Littlewood said. “We put up 15 hits and hit another eight or nine balls right on the screws. If we can come back with that approach Saturday we'll be fine.”
Rogers got the starting nod on the mound for the Cougars. He allowed six runs, four of them earned, over 4 1/3 innings. Keaton Cenatiempo tossed three innings in relief and allowed three runs. Mason Marshall and Easton Walker each made scoreless appearances.
Larsen gave BYU an early 1-0 lead when he hit a towering solo home run to center field in the bottom of the second inning. It is his second consecutive game with a homer.
Gonzaga answered right back in the next half inning. Jake Roberts reached on an fielding error. Leadoff hitter Sam Brown brought him home on an RBI double. Cleanup hitter Tyler Frost gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night with an RBI single to put them up 2-1. Rogers limited the damage with an inning-ending strikeout with runners on second and third.
The Zags scored again in the top of the fourth when Nick Brooks took Rogers deep on an opposite-field shot. The ball barely made it over as it bounced off the top of the wall and out to push the lead to 3-1.
The Cougars stormed back to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Colton Shaver walked, Urry singled and Keaton Kringlen singled to load the bases with nobody out. Larsen’s hot hitting continued when he knocked a two-run double. Kringlen also scored on the play on a throwing error by the Gonzaga center fielder to make it 4-3 in favor of BYU.
However, the Bulldogs chased Rogers from the game by putting up a five-spot in the top of fifth inning. Three doubles, two singles, two walks and a hit by pitch in the inning helped Gonzaga grab an 8-4 lead. They would never trail again in the game.
The Zags added a little more insurance in the top of the eighth on a Jeffrey Bohling solo shot to make it 9-4.
Jackson Cluff scored a late run in the bottom of the ninth on a Nielsen fielder’s choice to the shortstop.
BYU and Gonzaga will play the rubber game of the series Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Larry H. Miller Field. The game will be televised live on BYUtv and is also available on ESPN 960 AM and BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143.