PROVO — True to form, BYU's baseball team fell behind early but got strong outings from the bullpen and timely hitting to storm back late and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
On this occasion, the comeback came at Larry H. Miller Field against San Francisco in what proved to be a 6-4 Cougar victory Saturday afternoon.
The Dons struck in the first on an RBI single by sophomore right fielder Bradley Zimmer, who scored center fielder Justin Maffei. BYU countered in the bottom half of the inning with an Adam Law single to score Brennon Anderson, but USF then pounced on the Cougars with a three-run outburst in the second inning that spelled a short outing for BYU junior starting pitcher Adam Miller.
“We talk about not letting games get away from us,” said head coach Mike Littlewood. “Two or three or four runs is manageable when you are behind by that, but six or seven is a little bit different. It kind of feels like you are totally out of the game, but Keaton (Cenatiempo) gave us a chance to win. That’s just what he did. He kept us within three or four runs and it showed in the final score that keeping us within striking distance gave us a chance to win.”
Despite being down heading into the eighth, Law and his teammates had the Dons right where they wanted them.
“We were never down on ourselves. We’ve done it all year. We’ve come from behind, so we were just waiting for a couple of hits to get us going and finally in the eighth they came,” Law said.
“Hayden came up huge with that single to right-center. That kind of got the wheels going and the merry-go-round, so that’s what got it started (the rally).”
Law came up huge when it mattered most, connecting on a two-run triple that put the Cougars ahead for good.
“I was celebrating with my teammates. They were going crazy; I was going crazy. This was just such a huge game for us to kind of keep us in the hunt to make the conference tournament. So yeah, I was pumped. I knew we needed this game,” Law said.
“Our RPI is in the top 64 — I think we’re 56 — so if we get a few more quality wins we’ll continue to move up there. So even if we just win one or two games in the conference tournament we’ll have a chance at the at-large bid. So if we can make it (to the WCC tournament) we’ll really give ourselves a good chance to make it to the postseason.”
Saturday's win capped off a three-game set that didn't start off well — but ended the way the Cougars would've hoped.
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“Thursday I wanted to keep driving and not come back,” Littlewood said with a chuckle. “But that’s the thing with baseball, as opposed to something like football where you have a full week to play, you turn around the next day and have to play. You have to be mentally tough. You have to have a short memory, and I credit our guys for doing that (Friday). And then today in the fourth or fifth inning, I wouldn’t have felt too good about our postseason chances. Today I just went through a whole gambit of emotions, from frustration and anger and then a little bit of hope as we got closer and to elation right now. I’m just really proud of the guys.”
BYU will welcome the Utes to Provo Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in a makeup game that was re-scheduled from May 7.
Jonathan Boldt compiles statistics and covers sporting events in Utah Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @jboldt24.