Baseball finishes off opening series of WCC play in Provo

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BYU Photo
Brock Hale celebrates with his teammates during his big night on March 15 against Gonzaga. Hale went 2-4 with a double, a home run and four RBI’s. (BYU Photo)

BYU baseball hosted Niagara and Gonzaga on Provo’s Larry H. Miller Field last week. After a last-minute matchup against the Purple Eagles that resulted in a win, BYU fell 2-1 in the opening three-game series of West Conference play against the Bulldogs.

Prior to last week, BYU remained undefeated on home turf after sweeping Milwaukee in a three-game series that finished on March 9. This gave the Cougars their fifth straight win and an 11-3 record.

BYU started the week against Niagara March 12. Prior to the matchup, the two teams faced back in 2016 at Miller Park where the Cougars swept the four-game series and scored at least 14 runs per game.

BYU (11-3) quickly fell behind when Niagara (1-12) scored one run in both the first and second innings, trailing 2-0. In the third inning, senior Brian Hsu cut the lead in half with an RBI single. BYU permanently took the lead in the fourth, racking up a total of six additional runs in the inning. In the end, the Purple Eagles fell 11-5, giving BYU its sixth straight win.

“We came out a little flat and got off to a slow start,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “You could feel it in the dugout – something clicked and the guys decided they wanted to play and we kind of rolled after that.”

BYU and Gonzaga started a three-game series March 14. Last season, the rivals finished up a three-game series in Provo in which BYU won two of the games. Their overall record is a tight 25-27.

Both teams scored one run and held a tie going into the final inning. The Bulldogs broke the stalemate by scoring at the start of the ninth. However, BYU sophomore Mitch McIntyre put up another run after a hit by freshman Carson Matthews in the bottom of the ninth.

The teams both went scoreless in the tenth, but Gonzaga managed two runs in the eleventh and BYU failed to catch up, losing 4-2. A standout of the game, senior Jordan Wood pitched 6.2 innings, only allowing one run.

“A play here and a play there just made the difference,” Littlewood said. “They gave us a chance and we just couldn’t answer it.”

BYU hoped to get a win over Gonzaga March 15 and it did just that, winning 7-4. BYU trailed 3-1 at the end of the second. This changed over the course of the next three innings as the Cougars racked up another five runs.

“They played relaxed tonight and we matched Gonzaga’s energy,” Littlewood said. “We were into every single pitch in the dugout and it showed. Tonight, everyone was on the same page.”

Tied 1-1 in the series going into the final matchup on March 16, BYU got off to another slow start as the Bulldogs earned three runs in the third inning after two scoreless innings. Later that inning, Hsu put BYU on the scoreboard after a single that allowed senior Noah Hill to score.

In the sixth inning, with the bases loaded, the Cougars managed just a single run after Gonzaga’s pitcher walked sophomore Jackson Cluff. By the seventh, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 4-2, and the Cougars failed to catch up.

“We played hard today,” Littlewood said. “Last night we got the big hit and tonight we didn’t get the big hit.”

Coming up, BYU will continue fighting in the UCCU Crosstown Clash and will face Utah Valley University and Portland starting March 19.

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