Defending champion San Diego put a damper on BYU baseball’s league debut, defeating the Cougars 14-7 on Thursday night at Larry H. Miller Field.
“In games like this you see (PJ) Conlon, (Connor) Joe and (Louie) Lechich, they all step up and get it done,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “That's what we need our guys to do, the guys we're counting on to come in and get it done. We just have a lot of guys that are underachieving right now and we've talked a lot about how important that is to just play up to their ability and we're just not getting that right now.”
The Cougars (7-12) scored two runs in the first and went silent through seven innings before putting up the last five in the ninth. BYU struggled on the mound, cycling through five pitchers in the first of the three-game series.
In the bottom of the first, Kelton Caldwell connected on 1-1 in his first at-bat, sending the ball over the right-field fence for the first homer of the game, his second of the season. He brought in Brock Whitney who reached first base on a walk to give the Cougars the first two runs of the game.
The Toreros answered in the second with a two-run home run to tie the score at 2-2. Lund singled to left for the only hit of the inning before the Cougars went scoreless.
San Diego led the third inning with three hits for four additional runs. A double to right field for two RBIs gave the Toreros the first lead of the game at 4-2.
Lechich homered to start the fourth, putting San Diego up 7-2.
Sophomore Hayden Nielsen turned the solo double play of the night to help get the Cougars get out of the top of the fifth. Lund was the first to break the silence, singling to left. The speedster got hung up at first base but attempted the stretch and got thrown out by the left fielder at second. Starr and Whitney followed, each with a single.
But the pitching staff stayed out of sync. Nyberg hit three batters in a row to load the bases and was relieved by Hayden Parker in the seventh. Shortly after, James Lengal relieved Parker with bases loaded. San Diego’s Connor Joe capitalized on the third pitch for the grand slam, rubbing salt in an open wound. The Toreros led the Cougars, 13-2, at the top of the seventh.
Another left-handed pitcher, Chris Howard, relieved Lengal in the eighth. The Cougars retired the Toreros in order in the eighth and gave up only one run in the ninth.
After going cold through seven innings, the Cougars batted around for the first time in the bottom of the ninth. BYU scored three off a double by Starr for two RBIs and a throwing error to bring in Nielsen. JC Snyder was the last hit of the game. He singled to left field for two RBIs.
San Diego made its only pitching changes in the ninth inning, relieving the starter in the top of the inning and once more after two unearned runs.
The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. and will be streamed by TheW.tv and broadcast by BYU Radio.