Down 7-6 in the seventh, Jacob Hannemann hit a three-run shot to take the lead 9-7, but Hannemann’s error in center in the ninth led to the Dons tying it up at 9-9. Hannemann didn’t have to wait long for redemption when Caldwell led off the bottom half of the ninth with his blast on a 2-1 changeup over the left field wall.
“He [Logan West] fooled me with the first change up but he went back to it and that’s the one I hit out,” Caldwell said. “Luckily I was able to sit back on it the second time.”
BYU improves to 25-19 and 11-9 in the West Coast Conference, and the Dons drop to 31-20 and 15-8 in league. With the win, BYU stays in the hunt for a spot in the WCC Tournament.
"With what's at stake, it was clearly the biggest game of the year," head coach Mike Littlewood said. "It feels like every game is the biggest game, but tonight clearly was. I think if we're on the other side, a loss is just devastating, the biggest loss of the season. Now it's the biggest win of the season."
Caldwell, a returning first team All-WCC honoree, finished the game 4-for-5, including two doubles and a home run. He scored two runs and had two RBIs. Hannemann finished with two hits, a triple and a three-run homer. Hanneman now has seven triples on the year, three away from tying the BYU single-season record.
Derek Speigner picked up the win in relief improving to 4-0, pitching the last out of the eighth and the ninth. Jeff Barker started the game and put in 4.2 innings, surrendering six runs on just four hits but gave up five walks.
On the first pitch of the bottom of the first, Hanneman tripled in the left-center gap. Second basemen Brennon Anderson hit a shallow pop fly to right field, just deep enough for the speedy Hanneman to tag up and give the Cougars an early 1-0 lead.
Barker ran into some trouble in the top of the second with the bases loaded and no outs. After an infield fly rule for the first out, Barker walked in a run to tie the score 1-1 but had his curve ball working to get a swinging strikeout and fly out to escape.
The leadoff batter caused more trouble for the Cougars in the top of the third inning as Jason Mahood singled to right and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A groundout moved him to third and he scored on Zachary Turner’s sacrifice fly to center to give the Dons a 2-1 edge.
With one out, Anderson drilled a solo homer over the left field wall to knot up the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the third. Despite two outs, BYU kept the inning alive when Jaycob Brugman and Brock Whitney put together back-to-back doubles to take the lead. Caldwell singled up the middle to drive in Whitney to make it 4-2.
Hanneman robbed the Dons of a hit with a diving catch on a liner to shallow center in the top of the fifth. San Francisco kept at it with the bases loaded later in the inning when Turner picked up his second RBI on another sac fly to center. Barker hit a Don with the bases loaded to tie the score at 4-4, knocking the sophomore out of the game with two outs in the inning.
Matt Milke came in to relieve Barker with the bases loaded. After falling behind 3-0, Milke came back with two strikes, but Mitchell Rowan singled to left, driving in two to give San Francisco a 6-4 lead.
After the Dons added one more in the sixth, BYU got the run back in the bottom half when Adam Law was a hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in Dakota Hernandez after he singled earlier, cutting the lead to 7-5.
In two-out rally fashion in the seventh, the Cougars cut the lead to 7-6 with Caldwell doubling and Hernandez driving him in with a single to right. Hayden Nielsen picked up a walk and Hannemann delivered a three-run blast to right to take the lead back at 9-7.
With San Francisco threatening in the eighth, third baseman Law scooped up a drag bunt down the line barehanded and threw them out to help protect the Cougars two-run advantage.
With two outs and two runners on in the ninth, San Francisco pinch-hitter Reyn Nagamine drove a base hit to center and the ball bounced off Hannemann’s glove toward left-center allowing both runners to score to tie the game at 9-9 to set up Caldwell’s heroics.
The rubber match of the important three-game series is Saturday at 1 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast live on BYUtv and KOVO 960 AM.
Kenny is a BYU graduate, currently working as a football media relations assistant and gymnastics SID at BYU. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @KContheflipside