LOS ANGELES — California right-hander Jeff Barker won a pitcher’s duel and threw a complete game Friday as BYU defeated Loyola Marymount University, 3-2.
BYU, now 24-17 overall and 10-7 in the West Coast Conference, defeated LMU, 21-25 and 9-11, for the second consecutive day. The Cougars rode the arm of Barker, who threw 125 pitches and struck out nine to improve his record to 4-3. Losing pitcher Aaron Griffin struck out nine Cougars in 7.2 innings.
“This was the best win we have had all season; it was 3-2 and we were on the road,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “He (Barker) was one batter away from coming out of the game. He came out and found it, it wasn’t even close.”
The junior seemed to get better as his pitch count rose, striking out six of his nine in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
“I fell into a groove,” Barker said. “I started using my 12 to 6 curve ball to lefties instead of a change up.
“Our defense has been super and I didn’t worry about us scoring runs.”
That defense came up big time in the fifth inning when Hayden Nielsen made a super running catch on a shallow popup with two Lions on base with no outs.
“It was probably the play of the game,” Littlewood said. “I can’t be more proud of the guys.”
LMU cranked a tying run through that inning, 2-2, but Brock Whitney chased an inning-ending foul over the fence beyond the Lion dugout to end further damage in the fifth.
Other BYU defensive gems came when third baseman Adam Law made a great leap left to snag Tommy Cheek’s liner in the second.
Barker wasn’t able to escape the fourth when two Lions got on base via walks, with leadoff batter David Edwards scoring on Zac Fujimoto’s one-out single. In the melee, Fujimoto tried to extend his single to a double and was thrown out when Jacob Hannemann countered with a throw to first baseman Whitney covering second.
Earlier Barker got ahead of Colton Plaia in the count and worked him to a called strike out to end the third with two Lions left on first and second.
“I can’t say enough about our hitters and what they are doing with their approach,” Littlewood said. “We hit the ball just as hard today as yesterday when we put up 18 hits.”
In the top of the third inning, catcher Dakota "Bo" Hernandez scored on Trace Hansen’s sacrifice fly after going to third on Hannemann’s double to put BYU up 1-0.
The Lions executed a wheel play countered by Nielsen’s slash down the first base to load the bases the first of three times in the fifth. Twice LMU threw the Cougars out at home, and then Law singled up the middle, scoring Nielsen for a 2-1 lead, with Hannemann advancing to third. Hannemann scored the eventual game-winning run on a 1-2 wild pitch with Jaycob Brugman at bat, extending BYU to a 3-1 advantage.
LMU and BYU close their three-game series Saturday afternoon with KOVO Radio 960 AM again airing the live broadcast, which will be carried over the Internet.
Ralph R. Zobell has worked for BYU Athletic Media Relations in various capacities for over 30 years. You can view his bio at http://byucougars.com/staff/athletics/ralph-zobell or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company