PROVO, Utah – Bret Lopez hit a deep double to right field to spark a three-run fifth inning and give BYU a 3-1 upset over No. 21 UC Irvine Friday at Larry H. Miller Field.
The Cougars (9-6) got their second upset in as many days over the Anteaters (11-4), even though they were out-hit 9-7 in the game. The game lasted one hour and 55 minutes, the shortest game that BYU has played this season.
Brock Whitney and Kelton Caldwell smacked one-out singles in the fifth inning. Lopez followed with a deep fly to the right-field warning track that Kris Paulino misplayed. Whitney capitalized on the miscue to score from second and put the Cougars up 1-0. Then, Dakota Hernandez swung at strike three, but the UCI catcher was distracted by the wild pitch/swing and Caldwell scored from third to extend the lead to 2-0. Next, Hayden Nielsen laid down a perfect safety-squeeze bunt to score Lopez from third and give the Cougars a 3-0 lead going into the sixth inning.
“You know, we were at the right time in our lineup there in the fifth inning,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “We ran a couple of safety squeezes and we work on that all the time before practice. It was good we were able to use and execute them.”
The Anteaters responded in the top of the sixth, scoring one run. Taylor Sparks singled to right center to plate Dominique Taylor. After UCI loaded the bases with one out, starting BYU pitcher Adam Miller got an assist from a pitcher’s best friend, turning a (1-2-3) double play to end the inning.
James Lengal came in for the ninth on the heels of Matt Milke’s two innings of relief and got his second save in as many days, fanning the last two batters of the game to give him his fourth save of the year.
“We talked about adjustments that we would need to make today to win the game and we really didn’t make any,” Littlewood said. “We want to play our style of game and I think we did that today.”
Miller recorded his first win on the year, pitching six innings, striking out two, while only giving up one walk. He pitched five scoreless innings, consistently keeping the Anteaters from generating an offense. The junior hurler set the side down in order in the second and third frames.
“It was nice to get some run support by the offense today,” Miller said. “The past few games I had pitched, they had struggled to get some runs so it was nice they scored some today.”
Miller escaped danger in the fourth inning, when UCI’s Connor Spencer hit a “seeing-eye” single up the middle. Ronnie Shaeffer reached first when Miller bobbled the slow dribbler. After Spencer advanced to third, Miller coaxed an infield fly to Adam Law to end the inning and keep the score 0-0.
The final game of the three-game series between BYU and UC Irvine will be Saturday at noon MST from Larry H. Miller Field. The game can be heard live on KOVO Radio 960 AM.
Jared Houghton is a Sports Information Director who works in the BYU Athletic Communications with the men's and women's swimming teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions relating to swimming.