Pitching and fielding errors hurt the Cougars as they dropped the deciding game of the three-game series against Gonzaga.
The Cougars (18-27, 8-13 WCC) got off to a slow start Saturday, but their bats came alive in the sixth inning, scoring four runs in the bottom half of the inning. Eric Urry’s double with a man on first tied the game at one. Brock Whitney followed that up with a one-run double of his own, scoring Urry from third.
Gonzaga (20-25, 15-9 WCC) needed three pitchers, who faced 10 BYU batters, just to get through the inning. When the dust settled the Cougars had a 4-1 lead heading into the seventh inning.
BYU pitcher Desmond Poulson was pulled from the game the next inning with a 4-2 lead. Poulson pitched 6.1 innings and recorded three strikeouts. Once Poulson was pulled, the Cougars kept his lead and gave up another run that inning.
Then walks and errors plated five Gonzaga players over the next three innings.
“We have a 4-1 lead late in the game, and it was a circus, basically,” said Mike Littlewood, BYU head coach. “We gave up six walks and four errors. That’s putting 10 runners on base against a good team.”
The series got off to a promising start for the Cougars, who took game one of the series 11-4.
Another slow start for the BYU bats had Littlewood concerned. “We were living on the edge there in the first four innings,” he said. “(Barker) did a good job pitching out of trouble the first few innings, and we turned a double play in the eighth inning, which was big.”
With seven runs in the fifth inning and three more in the seventh inning, the Cougars were able to take command of the game.
“We put the pressure on and put a couple runs up late,” Littlewood said.
The Bulldogs were able to score a run in the top of the ninth inning but weren’t able to apply any more pressure to the Cougars.
Stranded base runners hurt the Cougars in the second game of the series. With multiple runners on base in multiple innings, the Cougars struggled to capitalize.
“We left a lot out there,” Littlewood said. “More than anything, there were a lot of emotions and frustrations, but it’s a really disappointing loss in a game we needed to win.”
The chances were there throughout the game as Whitney went 4-for-5 in the game, with Bret Lopez chipping to go 3-for-5 on the night and adding an RBI.
“We had a couple chances, but every time we hit it well, it seemed like there was somebody there to catch it,” Whitney said. “That’s just how baseball is sometimes. Sometimes it’s going your way, and sometimes it’s not.”
Ultimately dropping the last two games of this series will sting for a while, as the Cougars out hit the Bulldogs 37-24; but fielding errors and pitching miscues hurt the team the most in the series.
New BYU president Kevin J. Worthen threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Saturday in front of a crowd of 1,139.
The Cougars play next on May 6 at 6 p.m. against rival Utah at Miller Park. It will be game three of four in the Deseret First Duel. The Cougars took the first two games of the season series and will be looking for a clinching win.