The BYU baseball team opened its home season with a four-game series against the University of California Santa Barbara this weekend.
The series had a little bit of everything, including a heartbreaking loss, two five-run comebacks and a blow-out victory.
1,447 Cougar fans showed up for the opener Thursday night after having to wait for the eleventh game of the season to see the Cougars play at home.
The first game was a tough loss for the Cougars, falling to the Gauchos 10-8.
The deciding factor in the loss was sloppy pitching by the Cougars, specifically an ugly sixth inning which included a hit batter, a balk, a wild pitch and three walks allowing UCSB to score three runs and take the lead for good.
In the bottom of the ninth the bases were loaded with only one out, but two BYU bats flied out and the game ended on a sour note.
“We need to win games,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said after the loss. “It’s getting old saying that we’re close and competitive. We need better pitching performances out of the pen. We need to be able to rely on guys to come out of the pen and compete.”
The team responded in a big way in the Friday doubleheader against the Gauchos.
Friday afternoon was an abbreviated seven inning game and the Cougars needed every one of those innings to get the win.
After giving up five runs in the first inning, BYU ace Brady Corless held UCSB scoreless in four straight innings which allowed the Cougars to claw their way back into the game.
In the bottom of the seventh the game was tied at 6-6 when Daniel Schneemann blasted a walk off home run to give the home team a clutch 7-6 victory.
After pulling out a close win, the Cougars dismantled the Gauchos in the Friday evening night cap 17-3.
The BYU bats put on a clinic with 20 hits from 10 different batters.
“In my fifth year here, that was probably the biggest day we’ve had,” Littlewood said. “It’s nice to come back in the first game after losing a lot of close ones and then the bats showed up in the second game.”
Brennon Anderson led the Cougars going 4-for-5 in the evening game with six RBI including a grand slam in the bottom of the third inning.
“It’s always nice to go up there and know that every single pitch you can hit it a long way. It’s just one of those games, everybody has them and I hope I can keep it going as we go forward,” Anderson said.
On the weekend Anderson batted .667 with five doubles and eight RBI.
“To come home in front of your fans and have great weather is amazing,” Anderson said. “Its something we are going to build on.”
In the final game on Saturday the Cougars found themselves in a 4-0 hole after starting pitcher Kendall Motes gave up two hits and walked three batters in the first inning.
Reliever Bo Burrup came in the second inning and was able to slow the bleeding but still gave up a run in the second and third innings.
Bronson Larson helped get BYU going by hitting a home run and scoring Keaton Kringlen to cut the lead to three, then in the bottom of the fourth a Hale double drove in Schneemann and a Larsen single scored Hale to make the score 6-4 after four frames.
The fifth inning changed the game for the Cougars, with six hits and seven runs BYU took an 11-6 lead and never looked back finishing the game with a 14-8 victory.
Aaron Cross pitched three innings and gave up only one hit to the 10 Gaucho batters he faced.
The solid pitching and consistent BYU offense made what could have been a loss a convincing win for the Cougars.
“I’ve been telling everybody this is the kind of team we have,” Littlewood said. “And today we went out there and proved it. Now we just need to keep that going, keep perspective and keep it rolling next week.”
The Cougars will play New Mexico State on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at Miller Park.