PROVO — Mason Marshall and Brock Whitney combined forces in the eighth inning to lead BYU baseball to a 6-4 upset of Gonzaga Thursday at Larry H. Miller Field.
Marshall picked up the win in relief for a 2-1 record, only allowing two hits and striking out one in two innings. Whitney led the team with two RBIs, including the game-winning triple, on two hits. Whitney leads the team in game-winning RBIs with eight.
“It was a hard-fought ballgame from both sides, well-pitched from both sides, and it was a really well-defended ballgame, too,” head coach Vance Law said. “It was some of the best baseball we’ve played. (The eighth inning) was a tremendous inning offensively, and it tells me that our guys aren’t ones to give up but they’ll pick themselves up and keep battling.”
BYU is now 22-25 on the season and 10-12 in West Coast Conference play, while Gonzaga drops to 32-22 and 12-10 in the WCC. Gonzaga’s pitcher, Tyler Olson, who went the distance, is now 5-4 on the season.
With two outs at the bottom of the eighth, designated hitter Alex Wolfe singled to right field. Pinch runner Daniel Welch, normally a relief pitcher, took Wolfe’s place on first. On Whitney’s triple between the center and left fielders, Welch slid home for the game-winning run to put BYU ahead. Christian Mua singled to center, sending Whitney home to increase the lead to 6-4.
At the bottom of the seventh and down 4-3, Mua batted a deep fly to center field, which dropped before the center fielder could catch it, and he motored to second base. After advancing to third on a ground out, Mua scored on a right-field single by Stephen Wells to tie the game. Gonzaga prevented the Cougars from capitalizing on that momentum with a double play at first and second to end the inning.
“As long as my team puts up four to five runs a game, I think we’ll be fine,” said Desmond Poulson, who pitched the first seven innings for the Cougars, tossing 127 pitches. “You learn to gain trust in your team and the work they’ve put in.”
To start the matchup, Gonzaga’s Royce Bolinger singled to right field but advanced to second on a fielding error while Steven Halcomb ran home. The Bulldogs finished up the top of the first inning with Bolinger scoring an unearned run to put Gonzaga ahead 2-0.
At the bottom of the inning, BYU picked up a run from Wolfe singling in Wes Guenther. The Cougars tied the score with a single from Whitney, bringing home Austin Hall before the end of the inning.
Hall stepped up in the bottom of the third and sent the ball sailing over the center field fence and the trees beyond for the fifth BYU home run at Miller Park and Hall’s first of the season.
In the fifth inning, Wells overran second base and got caught in a pickle, finally getting tagged by Gonzaga third baseman Mitchell Gunsolus after getting cornered between the third and second basemen. Tanner Chauncey alertly advanced to second in the melee but was stuck on third to keep the score at 3-2 for BYU.
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The Cougars had a scare in the sixth as Gonzaga took its second lead of the night. BYU started the top of the sixth with two easy ground-outs, but an error on what could have been a third out at first sent Alex Bonczyk home to tie the score 3-3. Bonczyk stole second prior to the BYU error, setting up the scoring play. Bulldog Marco Gonzales also stole second on a dropped ball by catcher Guenther, giving himself the chance to score for the lead on Halcomb’s single to left field. Gonzaga ended the inning with a 4-3 lead.
The teams square off Friday at 6 p.m. in the second game of the series at Miller Park.
Rachel Hawks is a sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.