BYU baseball outlasts Pacific 8-7 in 12 inning thriller
It may have taken 12 innings and nearly five hours, but BYU baseball survived a tense marathon outing Thursday night for an 8-7 victory over Pacific.
Jacob Rogers was the hero for the Cougars, pinch-hitting in the bottom of the 12th to deliver a walk-off single that extended BYU’s winning streak to a conference-best seven games.
“We keep fighting and eventually someone makes a play or gets a big hit,” interim head coach Trent Pratt said. “I’m just proud of the way they battle.”
It was a messy affair throughout the evening and into the early morning hours, with seven total ties or lead changes, four errors, 13 walks and 21 runners left on base. The two teams trotted a combined 12 pitchers to the mound and used a total of 35 players in the nationally-televised contest.
Essentially, if you were at the ballpark and had a uniform on, you entered the game at some point (or at least wore a towering stack of more than 20 hats for an extreme rally cap). Luckily for Rogers, his turn to appear in the box score proved to be the ultimate difference.
“I feel like we didn’t play very sharp tonight, but to come away with a win was awesome,” Pratt said.
The Cougars took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning on a series of errors from the Pacific defense, only for the Tigers to shell BYU ace Jack Sterner for five runs over three innings to end his night prematurely and claim a 5-3 advantage.
Following Sterner’s exit, BYU’s bullpen kept the Cougars in the contest with Ayden Callahan, Cy Nielson and Nate Dahle teaming up for five scoreless innings of relief. In the fifth, more Pacific errors led to a Brock Watkins single and Mitch McIntyre double to tie the game at five runs apiece.
Two innings later, McIntyre delivered in the clutch again with a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Collin Reuter for the go-ahead run, putting BYU ahead 6-5.
In the ninth inning, the Cougar bullpen finally cracked as closer Reid McLaughlin blew a save opportunity by surrendering a pair of runs to give Pacific a 7-6 lead.
The Cougars refused to go down without a fight in the bottom of the ninth, as Ozzie Pratt singled to lead off the frame before taking second base on yet another Pacific error. Watkins and McIntyre were quickly retired, bringing Ryan Sepede to the plate.
Down to his last strike, Sepede delivered by slugging a double to left field to score Pratt and knot the contest back to seven runs each.
As Thursday night turned into Friday morning, the bats went colder than the brisk Miller Park air, with both sides refusing to budge as the handful of faithful remaining fans enjoying a sizable helping of free baseball.
Tigers reliever Austin McKinney began the bottom of the 12th by walking the first two Cougars he faced, putting Dawsen Hall and McIntyre on base as the potential game-winning runs. McKinney settled in to retire the following pair of batters, prompting Pratt to call on Rogers to pinch hit for Jacob Wilk.
After watching from the dugout for 12 innings, how does one mentally prepare to step to the plate on a whim with the game on the line? Much like famed golfer Happy Gilmore on the 18th hole of the 1996 tour championship, Rogers went to his “happy place”.
“(It felt) like I was in the backyard hitting batting practice with my dad,” Rogers said. “I felt real calm and collected at the plate.”
All the backyard batting practice paid off, as Rogers drove the second pitch he saw right back up the middle, scoring McIntyre all the way from second to clinch the walk-off win at 12:34 a.m.
“I’ve been dreaming about that moment since I was a kid. It was one of the great feelings in the world,” Rogers said of his game-winner.
Reliver Cooper McKeehan earned the win for the Cougars, piling up four strikeouts in two innings of work. Over the course of the contest, McIntyre tied the game, put the Cougars ahead and ultimately scored the game-winning run, driving in three runs and scoring twice in total. Pratt added two hits and two runs, with Watkins smacking three hits, driving in a run and scoring twice.
BYU now sits at 29-18 on the season along with a 12-10 mark in the WCC. The Cougars look to keep their magic alive in the second game of the series with Pacific Friday night at 6 p.m. MST.