Heroics in the ninth and 10th innings on Saturday afternoon led to an 8-4 victory for BYU baseball over UC Riverside.
Cougar catcher Wes Guenther was on the receiving end of many of those plays as he lifted the Cougars to a 2-1 record in the extra-inning victory. The Kansas co-captain applied the ninth-inning tag at the plate on a relay from leftfielder Kelton Caldwell via shortstop Tanner Chauncey, and he got the game-winning RBI in the four-run 10th with a two-out single to score Dillon Robinson.
That tag prevented the game-winning run from a would-be two-run single, which tied the game at four-all. Guenther, who had cramped up the day before, was on the receiving end of eight strikeouts thrown by BYU’s three pitchers. While winning pitcher Marc Oslund struck out second batter in the 10th before a 4-6-3 double play ended the game, starter Adam Miller and reliever Desmond Poulson also recorded crucial strikeouts.
“I felt comfortable going into the ninth with a 4-1 lead,” said BYU coach Vance Law. “The relay was an outstanding play. To knock down the winning run was huge.
“Our guys were gutsy in the top of the 10th because we had a time limit with no new inning starting after 3 p.m., in order to make our flight. It would have ended up a tie, but we got a clutch two-out base hit by Wes (Guenther) to give us the lead and by (Tanner) Chauncey with a two-run double that helped us out," he sai.
“Miller pitched well. He can be impressive and pitched himself out of a couple of jams.”
Miller had a no hitter through four-plus innings until it was spoiled by Devon Bolasky’s one-out single over shortstop. That was the lone hit surrendered by the flame-throwing sophomore who recently returned from a LDS Church mission to Mexico.
Miller loaded the bases on three consecutive walks with one out in the third and got out of the jam. With bases juiced and full count, he threw a curve ball to record a called strikeout for out number two, then coaxed a fly-out to Jaycob Brugman in right field.
While Miller set UCR down in order the first two innings, his teammates were conducting a textbook clinic of fundamentals, executing sacrifice bunts, sac-flies and hit and run situations to generate a 2-0 lead through three innings. Freshman shortstop Chauncey was key in those efforts, setting up the initial run on a bunt and executing a one-out hit and run in the third, both of which enabled Stephen Wells to score.
Poulson relieved Miller in the sixth, struggling in that inning when the Highlanders scored their initial run with the bases loaded. Poulson set the side down in order in the seventh, ending that inning with a swinging strikeout.
BYU added two runs in the eighth when Brock Whitney laced a left-field single to advance Brugman who got aboard when he was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a controversial balk with no outs.
When Oslund relieved Poulson in the ninth, it looked like a save situation with a 4-1 lead.
After winning the series, 2-1, to start the season at UC Riverside, BYU now readies for its debut in the West Coast Conference. The Cougars play at St. Mary’s on Thursday to start a three-game series in the WCC and it will be broadcast live locally over BYU Radio 960 AM.
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 [email protected].