STOCKTON, Calif. — For the third time this season San Diego beat the BYU baseball team with a walk-off hit, this time in a 9-8 loss in the West Coast Conference Tournament on Thursday.
Austin Bailey’s 10th-inning double down the right field line scored All-American Kris Bryant to put No. 2 seed USD (33-22) in the winner’s bracket. The No. 3 seed Cougars (31-20) now play regular season champion Gonzaga in the elimination game Friday at noon PDT.
“He (Bryant) indirectly beat us tonight,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “He’s the looming factor in their lineup.”
The Cougars’ plan was to intentionally walk Bryant, who nearly single-handedly beat BYU in a three-game sweep earlier in the season. He walked three times and then struck out swinging in the seventh off BYU reliever Matt Milke when the score was deadlocked eight-all with two on and one out.
Milke was spectacular with his slider that struck out five Toreros in three innings before he was tagged with the loss after Bryant led off with a single in the 10th.
“We had a couple chances to put them away and didn’t do it,” Littlewood said. “It was just heartbreaking tonight; it’s a tough way to lose. Four errors is uncharacteristic of us, there’s no excuses. We just didn’t get it done tonight.”
There was a full flower moon over Banner Island Ballpark, resulting in blossoms for both teams and ultimately the fans.
USD bloomed when it recorded a pair of strikeouts to close the fifth inning when BYU had the bases loaded. Conversely, when the Toreros loaded the bases in the sixth with one out, they got a pinch-hit home run by Dillon Haupt to apparently break the game open with an 8-3 lead.
BYU could have wilted but countered with a five-run seventh to tie the game at 8-8. Jacob Hannemann, who had scored BYU’s initial run in the first inning, led off the seventh with a double as four consecutive Cougars scored off All-American USD pitcher Michael Wagner in relief.
“We have a lot of belief in ourselves,” Littlewood said. “There is no quit in this team.”
Among other bright spots for BYU was in the fourth inning when Bret Lopez put the Cougars up 3-2 when he belted a fastball for a two-run homer on a 2-0 count.
BYU needs to win two games Friday to stay alive in the WCC tourney. The BYU-Gonzaga game will be broadcast live over the BYU radio network in a different manner, initially on Sirius Satellite 143 and www.byuradio.org, Direct 980, iTunes Radio and iTunes App before being joined in progress later in the game on KOVO AM 960 due to conflicts.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.