BYU baseball ranked No. 24

BYU Photo
BYU catcher Noah Hill guards the plate against a diving Oregon runner. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

The BYU baseball team was given its first national ranking of the season April 1, where it stands at No. 24.

This season, the Cougars hold a 14-2 record at home and have racked up 102 runs compared to their opponents’ 52 runs.

The team recently hosted UVU, Oregon and West Coast Conference rivals Saint Mary’s College at Larry H. Miller Field. The Cougars sit with a .778 winning percentage and a record of 21-6 after defeating Oregon, UVU and SMC but falling to the University of Utah.

BYU defeated UVU 14-13 in 10 innings March 19. Heroics came from the bat of dual-sport athlete Jaren Hall. Hall, who is also a quarterback for the football team, drove to the baseball diamond as soon as his football practice ended. Arriving late in the third inning, coaches put in Hall as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning. Hall’s only at bat would result in an RBI single, the game-winning walk-off run.

The team’s momentum carried, helping the Cougars sweep Portland in a three-game series and end the week with a 11-1 win.

Heading into a week of home games, the Cougars boasted an impressive 17-5 record. This is the team’s third most winning record to this point in a season, trailing only a 20-2 record in 2016 and an 18-4 record in 1980. The Cougar’s pitching lineup also sits at No. 20 in the nation with a WHIP of 1.19.

BYU faced Oregon March 26 for the teams’ tenth matchup. The Ducks held a four-game winning streak over the Cougars coming into the game. The last time BYU snagged a win against Oregon was in 1979.

Both teams scored in the second inning; however, BYU went three scoreless innings, allowing Oregon to rack up a 3-2 lead going into the seventh.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, sophomore Mitch McIntyre and junior Abraham Valdez racked up two runs each alongside a single by sophomore Danny Gelalich. This five-run inning allowed the Cougars to take the lead and close with the night with a 7-3 win.

BYU started a three-game series March 28 against SMC, which led the WCC with a 3-0 record. SMC held a three-game winning streak over the Cougars coming into the series after sweeping them during the 2018 season.

Unlike the Cougars’ come-from-behind win over Oregon, a strong Cougar lead developed in the first inning against the Gaels. After the Gaels racked up two runs in the top of the first, the Cougars pulled ahead five runs. One of these included a home run by senior Brock Hale, who tied his career-high of two home runs.

Hall, who was again running late to the game because of football practice, showed up without having any time to warm up. Ten minutes after arriving, Hall made a highlight reel catch at the wall. Later in the game, he added 2 RBI’s and capped off his night with dinner in the dugout — a meal he missed because of the schedule conflict between the two sports.

BYU wrapped up the first matchup with a 10-6 win.

“We really swung the bat well,” BYU baseball head coach Mike Littlewood said. “We answered back in the first inning, and that carried us to the victory tonight.”

BYU had its strongest win of the season the following day with an 11-0 shutout, with sophomore Easton Walker pitching six innings. In addition to Walker’s outstanding performance, the Cougars scored five runs in the first inning for the second consecutive night.

“We wanted to put the pressure on them early,” Littlewood said. “We were hoping to just get on the board in the first inning, but putting up five runs was nice.”

This win gave BYU its seventh straight win — its longest streak of the season.

SMC broke out early March 30, earning a run in the first inning. However, the Cougars answered by scoring five runs over the next six innings while SMC fell into a slump. In the final inning, SMC racked up two more runs, but failed to close the lead, losing 5-3.

BYU headed to Salt Lake City riding high on its eight-game win streak for a evening matchup against the U of U. Down four runs following the fourth inning, BYU clawed its way back to tie the game. With the score sitting at 6-6 going into the bottom of the 8th inning, Utah’s bats came alive as the Utes put two more runs on the board. These runs proved to be enough, and the Utes left the field with an 8-6 win over BYU, snapping the Cougars’ eight game win streak.

Brock Hale has had a strong presence on the BYU baseball team this season, batting .323 with seven home runs. The Mesa, Arizona, native was recently awarded national and conference player of the week after batting .500 with four home runs and nine RBI’s.

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