PROVO, Utah — Adam Law and a trio of BYU pitchers combined to lead BYU to a 6-3 victory over Saint Mary’s College on Friday night, clinching a spot in the West Coast Conference tournament.
Law hit the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the fifth inning and added a solo home run in the eighth inning to lead the Cougars offensive threat at Larry H. Miller Field. Jeff Barker, Mark Anderson and Matt Milke led the Cougars from the mound allowing three runs on eight hits. Barker earned the win improving to 5-3 on the season, while Milke picked up his fourth save of the season.
With the victory, BYU (29-19, 14-9) clinched a position in the postseason, for a berth in the WCC tournament, and eliminated Saint Mary’s (21-33, 11-12) from tournament consideration. The Cougars can sweep the Gaels and earn a three seed in the WCC tournament with a victory Saturday.
"The pressure was on St. Mary’s, they had to sweep us or they had to scoreboard watch," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "I’m glad we finished it tonight. I can’t say enough about the overall attitude of our team there was no anxiety, no tension, they (our team) wanted to get it done in two games. Now our next goal is to try to get the three seed."
With the bases loaded and the tying Saint Mary’s run on base, Milke struck out Markus Melgosa swinging to seal the Cougar victory. BYU showed consistency from the plate throughout the game, scoring single runs in six innings.
Both teams capitalized on errors early to score in the first inning. Saint Mary’s Melgosa stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw from Dakota Hernandez before Brenden Kalfus grounded out scoring the run. Hannemann displayed a nice piece of base running in the bottom of the first, stealing second and scoring at home sliding after a fielding error by the second baseman.
Tied at one apiece through one inning, the Cougars tagged on another run in the second inning. Hayden Nielsen doubled down the left field line scoring Kelton Caldwell from second to give the Cougars a 2-1 advantage.
In the top of the third, Nielsen made a great play snagging a hard hit line drive that appeared to be heading to shallow center field. BYU tacked on another run in the bottom of the inning to take a 3-1 lead as Whitney doubled down the left field line scoring Jaycob Brugman from second.
"Hayden Nielsen and Brock Whitney had great two-out approaches and did a nice job keeping the ball fair," Littlewood said. "They didn’t relent and would not let themselves get out and it really helped us. If they hadn’t got those two-out hits it would have been a tough scoring night for us."
In the fourth inning, Brenden Kalfus singled to left field to extend his WCC-record hitting streak record to 36 games. Hannemann made a diving catch in center field to help prevent a Saint Mary’s run from scoring and preserved the Cougars 3-1 lead.
BYU added another run in the bottom of the fifth. Law singled to left field as the ball got by the third baseman, scoring Hannemann from second again.
Holding onto a 4-1 advantage, the Gaels narrowed the Cougars' lead to 4-2 in the top of the sixth inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Anthony Villa doubled down the left field line, scoring one run and ending Barker’s night from the mound.
Coming in for relief, pitcher Anderson got out of a jam with the bases loaded later in the inning, forcing a ground out to retire the side. Leading off in the bottom of the sixth, Whitney homered to left field, launching a deep ball out of the park into the road, upping BYU’s lead to 5-2.
Anderson’s strong pitching fueled the Cougars to victory late in the game, retiring six of seven batters in the seventh and eighth innings. Law tacked on another run for the Cougars, hitting a line-drive home run to left field, his third dinger of the season.
BYU returns to action Saturday looking to sweep Saint Mary's on Senior Day. Game time is set for 1 p.m. MDT with live coverage on BYUtv and KOVO Radio 960 AM/Internet on byuradio.org.
Chris Scheitinger is a student at Brigham Young University studying Public Relations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org