The BYU baseball team had yet another dramatic series of close games. While the theme was the same, the opponent was different as the Cougars hosted UConn.
The Cougars went 2-1 against the Huskies and every game was decided by one run.
Game one was highlighted by an incredible go-ahead home run for the Cougars hit by shortstop Daniel Schneemann in the bottom of the seventh inning. The three-run homer put the Cougars ahead for good and made the score 7-6.
“We just grinded through it,” BYU head coach Mike Litttlewood said after the first game. “There’s no quit in this team. That’s what we’ve seen over the 16 games we’ve played. I’m proud of the guys overall.”
The second game was extremely close, but this time the Cougars came up short losing 8-7.
A low-light of the game was when Schneemann came up grimacing and holding his hamstring after a slide in the second inning. He was pulled out of play in the top of the third and the BYU hero had to sit out for the remainder of the series.
“He just has a tight hamstring,” Littlewood said about Schneemann. “And if it’s sore at all we are just gonna rest it till next week to make sure it’s ready to go when we need him.”
After six innings the Cougars found themselves down 5-3, but a strong seventh and eighth inning helped them come back.
In the bottom of the seventh Nate Favero nearly hit an inside-the-park homer, but Littlewood held him up at third. The next play he was able to reach home on a fielder’s choice.
After a single from Brock Hale and a Keaton Kringlen walk, Bronsen Larsen hit a single bringing Hale in for the score.
The two run seventh inning for the Cougars narrowed the Husky lead to one run.
With the same score in the eighth Kyle Dean and Colton Shaver walked consecutively, then Casey Jacobson, who was filling in for the injured Schneemann, hit a single scoring Dean and Shaver for the go-ahead play.
In the top of the ninth inning, a passed ball allowed a Husky runner to score to take the lead, and the Cougars couldn’t come back in the ninth.
Throughout the game it was difficult for the BYU bats to connect and Cougars struck out a season-high 13 times throughout the game.
“We saw pitchers tonight with really good stuff,” Littlewood said. “When you see our guys swing and miss that much, it usually means the opposing pitching is really good.”
The third game featured exceptional pitching from Hayden Rogers and a strong offensive start for the Cougars.
Rogers only gave up two hits through the first four innings with no walks, and five scoreless innings.
In the second inning the BYU bats had four hits and scored three runs.
A pair of sacrifice flies in the fourth inning scored Brian Hsu and Brennon Anderson and increased the Cougar lead to 6-0.
The Huskies came back in the sixth inning with three runs on three hits to make the score 6-3, but good relief pitching from Keaton Cenatiempo helped keep UConn off the board in the seventh.
Jacobsen made a great heads-up play to keep the Huskies from scoring the tying run in the eighth inning when he dove for a ball then threw it home in time to stop the base runner for out number three.
BYU increased its lead with a solid three run eighth inning, but the Huskies scored four runs in the ninth inning thanks to four walks and two errors. Reliever Jordan Wood came into the game with the bases loaded an one out and struck out two consecutive Husky batters to end the frame with the score tied.
“It’s really encouraging for us to see (Wood) come out like that,” Littlewood said. “We knew he could do it, but coming back from an injury it can take a while.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Jacobsen hit a lead-off double, then got to third on a wild pitch. After an Andersen sacrifice fly Jacobsen scored and the game was over.
“We were going to test the outfielder no matter what,” Littlewood said of the walk-off sacrifice fly. “They were playing shallow, so if they made a throw we were going to be out, but we had all the confidence in the world.”
Jacobsen had an impressive weekend filling in for Schneemann and has shown what he is capable of in the future.
“He’s earned himself playing time moving forward.” Littlewood said about Jacobsen. “How can you not put a guy like that in the game?”
The weekend showed that March Madness isn’t just for basketball games. The craziness of March infiltrated the diamond for the Cougars.
“They call us the Cardiac Cougs for a reason,” Jacobsen said. “We’ve just got to keep focused and stay on track.”
BYU opens conference play against Loyola Marymount next Thursday in Los Angeles, Calif. The game starts at 6:00 p.m. PDT.