Hayden Nielsen’s eight RBIs led BYU baseball to a doubleheader sweep over Hartford on Friday at Larry H. Miller Field, 8-6 and 20-4.
“I’m happy with our guys and the way we came back after the start of the first game of this doubleheader,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “Grinding it out and scratching and clawing to a win in game one and then coming back and scoring a bunch of runs in game two, it’s great for us.
“I’m really proud of our guys for coming back and sticking to it. We kind of turned the corner and did what we need to do to get a win.”
Dillon Robinson banged his first home run and team-leading 10th RBI of the season on the second pitch of the sixth inning over the right field wall to cut the Hawks lead to 5-2.
Later in the sixth, sophomore outfielder Brennon Lund singled up the middle to score two runs cutting the score to 5-4. Hayden Nielsen followed up that hit with a two-RBI double he smoked down the third-base line to give BYU its first lead of the afternoon, 6-5, to end the sixth.
Nielsen continued to beat up on Hartford pitching when he singled in Derrick Whitney in the bottom of the eighth to give BYU an insurance run and extend the lead to 7-5. The Cougars added another run when Lund scored on a wild pitch in the eighth.
After striking out the first two batters he faced, BYU right-hander Jeff Barker walked David MacKinnon, and the Hartford outfielder Ryan Lukach hit a monster home run over the right field wall, the first of two dingers for him on the day, to put Hartford up 2-0 after its first time up to bat.
Hartford used four hits in the second inning to stretch its lead to 4-1. Barker got into a bases loaded jam but avoided more damage when he forced a grounder to BYU third baseman Brian Hsu who fielded it cleanly and stepped on his bag to end the inning.
After a Hartford home run in the top of the ninth, BYU held on to win game one, 8-6.
Senior right-handed pitcher Brandon Kinser started on the bump and struck out the side for BYU to start game two of the doubleheader.
The Cougar bats were hot early when Lund led off with a triple scorched down the right-field line, and Whitney knocked him in with a double on the next at-bat.
BYU used two walks and a hit by pitch to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second. After a weak groundout and a short fly out, Nielsen continued to be a nightmare for the Hawks. The junior shortstop blasted a double to the center field wall to clear the bases and give BYU a comfortable 5-0 lead.
Robinson then singled in Nielsen for his third RBI of the day to push the lead to 6-0.
BYU again loaded the bases in the bottom of the third. Junior outfielder Eric Urry scored on a Hartford error, and sophomore catcher Bronson Larsen came home when Whitney grounded out to give BYU an 8-0 lead to end the third.
After a leadoff single, followed by an RBI double, the Hawks cut the BYU lead to 8-1 in the fourth. After hitting a Hartford batter to load the bases with no outs, Kinser got a pitcher’s best friend when Paxton Larson and Nielsen turned a 4-6-3 double play. A run did come across for the Hawks, but the Cougars got out of the inning still up 8-3.
The Cougars closed the door on the Hawks with nine runs in the bottom of the fifth, highlighted by a bases-loaded single from Nielsen to give him two more RBIs. That’s eight for the doubleheader for the junior shortstop and a career-high five in the second game Friday against Hartford.
“Hayden (Nielsen) has turned out to be our best clutch hitter,” Littlewood said. “We put him in the three hole today and if there is one guy that we want up to bat with two outs, it’s him.”
The Cougars went on to win 20-4 in seven innings. These two squads are back in action Saturday at 11:00 a.m. MST, at Larry H. Miller Field for the final game of the four-game series. Fans can listen to the game on BYU Radio or stream it live on TheW.tv
Zach Brady is a student at BYU and current BYU swimming & diving SID. TWITTER: @Zachbrady7 EMAIL: [email protected].