No. 16 UC Santa Barbara lived up to its billing with an 8-1 victory Friday over BYU in the baseball season opener for both teams.
The Gauchos pounced on a 4-0 lead through the first two innings and fended off several Cougar attacks. BYU got its leadoff batter on base every inning except the sixth and seventh frames. Freshman Brian Hsu scored BYU’s only run in the fifth inning when Hayden Nielsen singled to right field.
"I feel really good about our offensive approach today,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “We put up 12 hits against an excellent pitching staff and we hit another half dozen balls hard. If a couple line drives fall for us early, it's a one-run game. They got a few big two-out hits which is to be expected from a veteran team.”
Five Cougars collected a pair of hits, including leadoff hitter Brennon Lund and shortstop Nielsen who each had three hits. Cleanup batter Dillon Robinson’s leadoff double in the second inning was one of his two pokes and the only BYU extra base hit.
Most things went well when needed for UCSB, while the Cougars were snake-bit on plays like Lund trying to extend a first-inning single when he face planted midway to second and was thrown out. Freshman Colton Shaver was on second in the fifth and was thrown out attempting to steal third prior to three-consecutive singles by Hsu, Lund and Nielsen.
Starting pitcher Kolton Mahoney retired the side in the fourth of his six innings, striking out three Gauchos for the afternoon.
“Kolton (Mahoney) took a couple innings to settle in, but finished his day strong,” Littlewood said. “Overall, I loved our effort and desire as we opened up against a very good team.
“Santa Barbara is relentless offensively – there are no easy outs in its lineup and they put pressure on you every inning.
“We've stressed to our guys the importance of not beating ourselves defensively and not losing runners – we did both of those things which is the most disappointing aspect of today's game.”
The two teams play a doubleheader on Saturday in a four-game series.