In the midst of what was supposed to be graceful run for the WAC regular-season baseball title, the BYU Cougars discovered some serious problems Friday. The first was San Diego State pitcher Rob Brown, who four-hit the Cougars in a 6-2 Aztec's opening victory. In the late game, a 7-6 Cougar loss, they ran into themselves - something Coach Gary Pullins considered equally troublesome.
The Cougars saw the enemy, and it was them.BYU blew leads of 4-0 and 6-2 to turn the nightcap over to the Aztecs. The doubleheader blank, coupled with Hawaii's doubleheader sweep of Utah in Salt Lake, dropped the Cougars into second place in the league standings. Hawaii leads the race with a 17-5 record, followed by BYU at 18-7 and SDSU at 14-6.
"We control our own destiny," said Brown. "We can decide what happens by playing the teams ahead of us."
The Aztecs have their wish. BYU hosts SDSU for another doubheader today at 1 p.m. while Utah meets Hawaii in Salt Lake at noon. Next week, Hawaii and SDSU meet in a four-game series in San Diego and BYU and Utah meet in a single game in Salt Lake.
Losing the opener came as no major surprise to the Cougars. Brown, who has the second-best ERA in the WAC - next to teammate Dave Riddle - at 2.95, was named the first-game starter so he could get the Aztecs off to a running start.
Although the Aztecs pestered BYU starter Darin Kracl for three runs in the top of the first - on homers by Harry Henderson and Bill Miller - Brown had an early problem of his own. BYU's leadoff hitter in the bottom of the inning, Gary Miner, deposited a home run over the right field fence.
But after that, the Cougars could only manage three singles the rest of the game. Brown finished with seven strikeouts, improving his record to 9-4.
"It's not too often we get held to two runs," said Pullins. "And it's not too often we get out-homerun-ed in our own ballpark, either."
It would happen again.
In the nightcap, the Cougars scored twice in both the first and second, with the latter two runs coming on solo homers by Paul Cluff and Rick Afenir.
SDSU cashed in on a solo homer from Brian Dunn in the third and added another blast by Brian Grebeck in the fifth, cutting BYU's lead to 6-3.
The Aztecs jumped relievers Bart Grubbs and Mike Switzer in the top of the seventh for four runs, the key blow being a three-run homer by DH Brian Lutes. The Cougars could have ended the game ahead, had not an error and a slowly-played infield grounder let runners on base to keep the Aztec rally going.
In the last of the seventh, Burt Call and Jeff Howes produced long flyouts for BYU, but drew no blood. Howes, the game's final batter, saw his hit stolen when centerfielder Jeff Barry made a running catch while crashing into the fence.
"I wasn't disappointed we lost, I was disappointed in the way we lost," groused Pullins. "We were lackadaisical all day. We sat on a 4-1 lead and a 6-2 lead."
Pullins continued, "Six runs. I say six runs is a terrible performance for a good offensive ball club in this ballpark."
Today's games will feature John DeSilva (12-2) and Ed Zinter (6-4) going for BYU against John Hemmerly (5-3) and Dave Riddle (4-3).
Hawaii 17, Utah 8
Hawaii 6, Utah 4
Hawaii neutralized a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh inning and exploded for nine runs in the top of the eighth to defeat Utah 17-8 in the first game of their doubleheader.
The Rainbows defeated Utah 6-4 in the nightcap.
Hawaii shortstop Brian Hart hit his first collegiate grand-slam home run during the first-game spurt to pace the victory, which ensures the Rainbows, 17-5 and 35-19, a spot in the WAC playoffs.
Utah fell to 8-17 and 15-31 with the loss.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Utes had the bases loaded with one out when leftfielder Tim Blackham tried a suicide squeeze bunt that Hawaii first baseman Mark McWherter caught. He easily doubled off Brett Alvey, who had broken to home on the play.
In the second game, Hawaii's Steve Otani went three-for-five with two RBIs and third baseman Jon Viela was two-for-two, also with two RBIs.
The first game's winning pitcher was Jay Holland, 4-1, while the loss went to Mark Nilson, 2-2. Greg Nealon took the win in the second game and Paul Simmons, 1-5, the loss.