Strong all-around performances helped the Cougars finish the season with a three-game sweep of the Portland Pilots.
BYU (22-31, WCC 12-15) used strong pitching performances to confuse the Portland (11-41, WCC 5-22) bats. Each of the starting pitchers in the series pitched at least six innings, with Jeff Baker pitching a complete game in the first game. Baker was able to hold the Pilots to only one run on eight hits.
“We needed that start from Jeff to go deep,” said BYU coach Mike Littlewood. “We were keeping our fingers crossed. He wasn’t sharp at first, but after the sixth inning he finished strong. He has learned how to battle through the tough times.”
It wasn’t all pitching for the Cougars, who collected hits from each player in the lineup en route to 14 hits and 11 runs. Brennon Lund, Dillon Robinson and Brock Whitney each added two RBI.
In the second game of the series the Cougars again relied on their strong starting pitching; this time it was Kolton Mahoney who delivered. After allowing an early single to Portland’s lead-off batter Chet Thompson, Mahoney didn’t give a hit again until the bottom of the seventh inning as the Cougars won 6-3.
“My curve was working along with my slider; everything was over the plate,” Mahoney said. “It makes it a lot easier so you can just go out and throw strikes.”
Mahoney got enough help from the offense to withstand a three-run eighth inning as the Pilots attempted a comeback.
Hayden Nielsen paced the offense with three hits, including two doubles. Bret Lopez, Kelton Caldwell and Jarrett Jarvis each tallied two hits in the game.
“I love to see the fight and fire still in them, when really we have nothing to play for right now,” Littlewood said. “I like how the guys are responding. It was a very solid performance. Look at the silver lining, guys are starting to understand what it is going to take to compete at BYU.”
In the final game of the series the Pilots put up an early run on the Cougars; it didn’t take long for a response. In the third inning Dillon Robinson hit a three-run home run to put the Cougars in the lead, and they didn’t look back, winning 6-1 to close out the sweep.
“I was looking to hit a sacrifice fly and got a good pitch to hit,” said BYU third baseman Dillon Robinson. “I knew I got a hold of it because it moved toward the fence quickly.”
Desmond Poulson started the game and pitched well, but it was the defense behind him that made him look good. Robinson caught a foul ball leaning over a fence down the third base line. Later Jarvis threw out a Pilot base runner trying to steal second.
This season wasn’t quite what the coaches and players had hoped for, but this series showed that if the team puts all three phases of the game together it can be strong. With only six seniors leaving the team, the roster should bring back experience and confidence for next year.
“This series was our potential,” Littlewod said. “We are starting to develop confidence. I can’t say enough about this series and how we finished the year. The guys showed tremendous character. I’m really proud of them.”