PROVO One night after a zany slugfest, BYU and UNLV staged get this a veritable pitchers' duel.
Craig versus Craig.
Craig Heyer took the mound for the Rebels and Jesse Craig got the start for the Cougars. In the end, the guy from Las Vegas shut down the guys from UNLV.
Jesse Craig, a Las Vegas native, struck out six, surrendered just nine hits and two earned runs, and didn't allow a walk in 8 1/3 innings of work to lead BYU to a 5-3 victory over UNLV Friday night before a crowd of 1,382 at Miller Field.
"It was a little different game tonight," said Cougar coach Vance Law, who saw the two teams combine for 27 runs and 28 hits on Thursday. "It was well-pitched on both sides."
Going into Friday's rematch, Craig knew it would be a low-scoring affair.
"I expected it," he said. "Heyer shut us down in Vegas when we played them there. He's their ace, their go-to guy."
And Craig pitched like BYU's ace and go-to guy. He threw 126 pitches and had one out in the eighth before yielding a one-out single. Law marched to the mound and summoned J.D. Stambaugh from the bullpen.
Craig, who improved to 4-2 on the year, was disappointed to be so close to a complete game and fall short. But it all worked out in the end for him and BYU as Stambaugh retired the only two batters he faced to earn his fourth save of the season and preserve the Cougar win.
Heyer (4-4), meanwhile, lasted 7 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs and eight hits while walking one and striking out seven.
With the score knotted 3-3 after seven innings, the Cougars chased Heyer, who left the game with two baserunners on, Leon Johnson and Collin Fanning. Rebel coach Buddy Gouldsmith elected to replace Heyer with Koji Pupo. Apana Nakayama drilled Pupo's first pitch up the middle to plate Johnson and put the Cougars up, 4-3. On Thursday night, Nakayama collected the game-winning hit in BYU's 14-13 triumph.
The Cougars added a little insurance when the following batter, Kent Walton, singled off pitcher Adam Moser to score Fanning.
Walton gave BYU an early 1-0 advantage when he blasted a home run his fifth of the season to lead off the second inning. One frame later, UNLV tied the score on a solo shot by Blake Gailen.
The Cougars jumped back on top in their half of the third as J.T. Musso and Austin Hall singled, then Fanning singled to plate Musso. Another single by Nakayama scored Hall to give BYU a 3-1 edge.
The Rebels answered in the fourth on Ryan Kowalski's two-run single to knot the game at 3-3.
Both teams' bats fell silent until the eighth, when the Nakayama came through in the clutch.
While the Cougars committed three errors and hit into four double plays, Craig's performance more than made up those miscues.