Cougars drop final home game to Broncos

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The Cougars’ bats cooled off in the final game of the series, as they  dropped the weekend series two games to one.

“It just was one of those days,” said BYU head coach Mike Littlewood. “It was tough to score runs, but I liked the way we came out and competed. This was a pretty good baseball game today.”

BYU shortstop Hayden Nielsen jumps and throws to first base for an out. Photo by Natalie Stoker
BYU shortstop Hayden Nielsen jumps and throws to first base for an out. (Photo by Natalie Stoker)

The Cougars’ (19-30, 9-15 WCC) only run of the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning off a Jarrett Jarvis hit. Jarvis led the offense with three hits on the day, the rest of the team combined for four hits.

Starting pitcher Kolton Mahoney did his best to keep the Cougars in the game. He pitched six innings, striking out six batters, but allowed four earned runs.

“We didn’t see the great Kolton Mahoney; we saw the okay Kolton Mahoney,” said Littlewood.

The Broncos’ (24-27, 14-10 WCC) bats came alive in the early innings after taking the game off the night before. Center fielder Greg Harisis bashed a two-run home run in the fourth inning. Right fielder Kert Woods added two RBI of his own to help pace the Bronco offense.

Broncos starting pitcher Jacob Steffens pitched eight innings, keeping the Cougar bats at bay, only allowing five hits and striking out five. The Cougars seemed to figure out Steffens later in the game, but every time they made contact a Bronco fielder seemed to be in the right spot to make a play.

After scoring runs in the fourth inning, both teams struggled to get anything going, wasting opportunities to score runs later on in the game by stranding runners four of the final five innings.

The Cougars had hoped their hot bats would carry over from the first two games of the series, where they had combined to score 22 run on 31 hits.

Game one of the series had a familiar feel to the Cougars’ last few games. The Cougars out-hit the Broncos in game one, 16 to 10, but gave up five runs in the last three innings to see their lead vanish and drop the first game of the series.

“I knew that our pitching lineup might struggle late in the game,”  Littlewood said. “It’s a difficult loss after taking a 6-3 lead, but this is athletics and we have to come back tomorrow and try to win against this team. We just have to get better.”

Get better is just what they did, routing the Broncos 16-2 in the second game, one of their more lopsided victories this season. The 16 runs were the second most runs the Cougars have  scored in a game this season, only four short of the 20 scored against rival Utah.

Bret Lopez and Trace Hansen led the way for the Cougars, combining for nine RBI. Kelton Caldwell and Brock Whitney did the heavy lifting early on the in the game, hitting back-to-back home runs to start the second inning and start a run of six straight innings with a run scored.

“We just looked like world beaters tonight,” said Littlewood “I can’t say enough about our offensive approach for the last month. We’ve been really doing a good job swinging at strikes for the most part and we’ve been getting timely hits.

Before the final game of the series, BYU’s last home game of the season, the team honored its seniors. Each player was presented with a gift from the team and then threw out the ceremonial first pitch as a group.

The Cougars’ next game is May 13 at 6 p.m., in Salt Lake City at Smith’s Ballpark against Utah. The game with be the final game of the four-game Deseret First Duel. The Cougars hold a 2-1 advantage in the series. The final weekend series for the Cougars gets underway May 15 in Portland against the Pilots.

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