Clutch hitting and some amazing defensive plays allowed the BYU baseball team to take two out of three games against Portland in its home series April 2–4.
The Cougars scored a total of 14 runs in the series, with nine of them coming from their 9–3 win over the Pilots on Saturday. Portland took an early lead with one run in the second inning, but the Cougars responded in that same inning with two runs off of a Bronson Larsen home-run to left field.
“I didn’t even realize it was that big when I hit it,” Larsen said. “I was just running, and I heard everyone yelling, and that’s when I looked up and saw it was a home-run.”
The Cougars took a 5-2 lead in the fifth after Hayden Nielsen stole two bases off of a wild pitch and then was brought home off of a sac-fly to right field. BYU followed up in the sixth with a double-play to get out of a jam. It then loaded the bases in the seventh and brought in two runs after a walk by Brennon Lund and a single from Nielsen.
“We had professional at-bats today. I thought we executed very well offensively,” head coach Mike Littlewood said. “The eighth inning double-play was an important at-bat for us as well, because Rucker (Michael) wouldn’t have been able to throw in the ninth if we didn’t stop them that play.”
The Cougars won the first game of the series 3-2 thanks to some clutch play late in the game. Portland had the lead 2-1 going into the bottom of the eighth when Dillon Robinson and Colton Shaver had back-to-back hits, giving them runners on second and third. A wild pitch brought in Robinson and walked Eric Urry, which gave the Cougars a runner on first and third with zero outs. Jarrett Jarvis then proceeded to hit a short chopper down the first base line that didn’t make it past the pitcher’s mound but was slow enough for pinch-runner Andy Isom to score from third to give BYU the lead and eventual win.
Portland took the second game of the series after the Cougars struggled to find their rhythm offensively.
“We swung our bats alright, but we hit it right at them, and they turned some double plays,” Littlewood said. “You can’t sleep on Portland. They’re going to compete, and that’s what we saw tonight.”
Jeff Barker walked the Pilot lead-off hitter Grant Taylor in the top of the fifth and then retired the next two hitters. Portland responded with three consecutive doubles, resulting in a 5-2 Cougar deficit. Brady Corless stepped in at pitcher and retired 10 of his first 11 hitters, striking out four in three innings. His effort wouldn’t be enough as the Cougars lost 6-3.
“Winning the series keeps us in the driver’s seat,” Littlewood said. “If we can keep winning series, we will be in a good spot.”