Kenny Cox | Posted: 30 Apr 2016 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

Five-run ninth powers No. 30 BYU over Zags 5-4

main image

PROVO, Utah – No. 30 BYU baseball scored five runs in the ninth to come back from a 4-0 deficit to beat Gonzaga 5-4 on Saturday at Miller Park.

Despite leaving 11 men on base heading into their final at bat and a lackluster day at the plate, the Cougars (30-10, 12-6) finally heated up when it mattered most.

"[Our approach was] to come out and do what we do, but for eight innings it didn't work," BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. "Fortunately, we play nine innings in this game."

Taking two of three from Gonzaga (25-15, 13-8) marked a critical West Coast Conference series win with both teams competing for the league championship. The win was the 13th come-from-behind victory this season.

After a leadoff single from pinch hitter Jackson Cluff in the ninth, senior Hayden Nielsen reached on a walk and junior Tanner Chauncey singled for the fourth time on the day to drive in Cluff for BYU’s first run.

A passed ball moved the runners over to second and third and a walk to sophomore Colton Shaver loaded the bases. Senior Eric Urry smoked a one-out single to left to make it 4-2 when Nielsen scored.

Freshman Keaton Kringlen nicknamed "Santa" by his teammates, came up with the big gift in the form of a sharply-hit ground ball passed the third baseman that plated two to tie the game at 4-4.

With Urry at third and one out, junior Bronson Larsen did all he needed to do with a fly ball deep enough to center for Urry to tag up and race to the dish. Urry slid home with ease to cap the Cougar comeback victory.

"We said before the game that, for us, we feel that this is a must-win," Littlewood said. "It is a must-win for a tie-breaker, for the league lead and for getting to that magic number and getting to the tournament, which we think is probably 16. All those numbers really matter, so it was huge."

Chauncey went 4-for-5 with four singles and Kringlen had two hits and two RBI.

Gonzaga left even more men on base with 14 but managed to push across four runs on a Cougar pitching staff that issued nine free passes on the day.

BYU’s own miscues in the top of the first gave Gonzaga a 1-0 lead. An error on Gates trying to pickoff shortstop Dustin Breshears at first and a wild pitch moved him to third. An RBI groundout by infielder Taylor Jones put the Bulldogs in front.

The Cougars loaded the bases in the bottom of the first but couldn’t cash in, foreshadowing most of the day until the comeback began in the ninth.

A long top of the third for the Zags didn’t hurt BYU after starter Riley Gates struggled to throw strikes. After walking one and then picking him off, Gates walked two more. Junior righthander Mason Marshall came in to relieve him, walked another but got Joey Harris to fly out to left to end the inning down just the one run.

Back-to-back singles from Chauncey and Shaver built a threat in the bottom of the third but BYU never found the big hit it needed and continued to trail 1-0.

In the fifth, Chauncey singled and then took advantage of the Bulldogs' pitcher and catcher, advancing on a wild pitch to second and a passed ball to take third. A two-out comebacker knocked down by Gonzaga pitcher Hunter Wells and a throw to first ended the fifth for the Cougars and another chance to score. BYU left eight men on base through five innings.

Gonzaga added on to the lead in the sixth with two on and two out. An RBI single from outfielder Sam Brown through the left side one and another RBI single from Breshears to center scored another run for a 3-0 lead.

The Zags scored one more in the top of ninth to make it 4-0 but it wouldn’t be enough to hold off the Cougar rally.

BYU hosts Utah Valley University on Tuesday, May 3 at 6 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised live on BYUtv with radio on BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143.