PROVO, Utah — Infielder Daniel Schneemann’s walkoff sacrifice fly rallied BYU baseball to a 9-8 comeback win over Santa Clara Friday night at Miller Park.
“Tonight we had to exercise patience because of the way the game started and hang in there hoping for the best,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “We grinded it out. It got us a victory.”
With bases loaded and one out, the freshman out of Chula Vista, California, took the first pitch of his at-bat deep enough to right field, which effectively clinched the 15th come-from-behind win this season for the Cougars (36-15, 17-9 West Coast Conference). BYU finds itself one game back of first place Gonzaga, heading into the final game of the regular season.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Cougars found themselves down 8-6 to SCU (23-28, 10-16 WCC) after giving up one run in the top half of the frame.
Facing the deficit, the rally cap was assembled as BYU faced Bronco closer Max Kuhns, who had 14 saves on the season entering Friday’s game.
Leadoff hitter Brennon Lund topped off his 4-for-5 night with a bloop single to left center. Hayden Nielsen then battled 10 pitches in his at-bat, drawing a walk after falling behind in the count 0-2.
Tanner Chauncey followed with a tough at-bat, placing a single in left to score Lund from second. Eric Urry knotted the game with an RBI single to left. Two batters later, Keaton Kringlen made fans think it was almost Christmas as he singled to right field for his third hit of the game, setting the table for Schneemann’s game-winner.
“Just staying close to them was big,” Littlewood said. “They would go up and we would answer. Honestly, I loved the energy in the stadium. It helped carry us to the win. Their pitcher had a bit of trouble throwing strikes, and I know the crowd had a bit to do with it.”
The game had a strange air about it with a lightning delay, three batters hit by pitches and a duck delay all in the first two innings.
Lightning struck in the first inning and delayed the game before the Broncos struck and put four runs on the board. A hit-by-pitch, walk, another hit-by-pitch and another walk scored the first run. Then runs were driven in on a sacrifice fly, a single and a sacrifice bunt, putting the Cougars down 4-0.
Another hit batter caused Littlewood to bring in Zach Brinkerhoff from the pen who kept the Bronco attack at bay after escaping a jam with two runners on base thanks in part to Bronson Larsen catching the runner stealing at second.
“We did have to piece together the game with Brink throwing a couple and Mason (Marshall) being the good Mason,” Littlewood said.
Riley Gates started the game but was spelled on the mound in the second inning by Brinkerhoff. Easton Walker threw two innings prior to Marshall’s final three as he picked up his third win of the year.
In the second Colton Shaver flushed a single through the left side for the first hit of the game for the Cougars. A single by Kringlen and Schneemann’s walk loaded the bases before Brennon Anderson put BYU on the board with a two-run single. Larsen and Lund followed with RBI singles of their own for the 4-4 tie before a duck decided to delay the game by drawing attention to itself for a noticeable period of time.
Following a scoreless third, Santa Clara knocked in two runs on a home run to take the lead 6-4 in the top of the fourth.
Lund singled down the left-field line between the third baseman and the bag for the RBI single, scoring Larsen. The ball then rolled passed the left fielder as he slipped, giving Schneemann enough time to run home to tie the game again, 6-6 in the bottom of the fourth.
The Broncos pushed ahead again with a solo shot to left for the 7-6 advantage in the fifth.
Then the game stalled as offenses slowed until the ninth-inning scoring exchange, due in part to solid play by BYU outfielders. Urry’s assist on a 7-6-4 putout in the sixth and Kringlen’s assist on a 9-4-5 play in the eighth helped keep the game close.
The Cougars wrap up the regular season at home with Senior Night on Saturday at 6 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.