It took four pitchers, a strong seven-run lead and key double plays for BYU to muster enough momentum to beat San Francisco. Though the Dons fought back, the game ended 7-5 — the first West Coast Conference (WCC) win for BYU this season.
The last of the four pitchers, Kolton Mahoney, offered critical relief pitching in the eighth inning when he threw out the Dons’ Bradley Zimmer, a top 15 pick.
“He (Zimmer) is a lineup changer. Kolton is probably the only guy on our staff that could get him out,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said of San Francisco’s potential first-round draft pick.
BYU kept the Dons from scoring for the first six innings and managed to put seven runs up on the board: one in the first inning and then three in the third, when Bryan Heward walked a base and Hayden Nielsen doubled. Heward and Nielsen scored the second and third runs when Brennon Lund and Parker Starr singled.
The Nielsen-Lund duo delivered again in the fourth inning. Nielsen scored on Lund’s single, who then ran home on Starr’s bunt. Starr took the sixth run on a wild pitch.
“I looked at it as a must-win. Not for one second did I think it was going to be easy,” Littlewood said. “I wanted to score first and put the pressure on.”
San Francisco gave BYU a run for its money in the intensely played seventh and eighth innings when it scored two home runs and three doubles. BYU’s starting pitcher, Jeff Barker, had done well for the first seven innings but began to tire as San Francisco caught up. Two relief pitchers later, Mahoney came in to save the game. Neither team scored runs in the ninth frame.
“Barker had an incredible game,” Littlewood said. “I am proud of our guys. You almost expect bad things to happen when you see a team put together a run like they (USF) did, but we showed a little resiliency and that is what I want us to show.”
The three-game series will conclude tomorrow at AT&T Park at 12 p.m. (PDT).