Hayden Nielsen’s bases-loaded walk-off single in the 10th inning gave BYU the 6-5 rubber game win over Pepperdine on Saturday afternoon at Larry H. Miller Field.
“Our guys just never panicked today and the whole series really,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “We’ve gotten them to take their practice mode into games and really slow things down and they’ve started to do that and we’re seeing results.”
BYU (9-11, 2-1 West Coast Conference) had 12 hits with no errors and scored the six runs while holding Pepperdine (9-11, 1-2 WCC) to 11 hits and five runs, and the Waves had two errors in the 10-inning affair.
Junior outfielder Eric Urry started the 10th with a walk, and catcher Jarrett Jarvis laid down his second sacrifice bunt of the game to advance Urry into scoring position with only one out. Pepperdine intentionally walked outfielder Brennon Lund to put Cougars on first and second. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third.
After Derrick Whitney walked to load the bases, junior shortstop Nielsen singled the first pitch. Pepperdine reliever Chandler Blanchard left a slider up in the zone, and Nielsen drilled the mistake to center field to win the game in 10 innings.
“My hands are still shaking,” Nielsen said. “That was such a great win for our team and to be able to step up and get a hit like that is awesome. We’re just going to keep battling and we don’t quit.”
After striking out the first two batters he faced, senior relief pitcher James Lengal beaned a Pepperdine batter and then gave up a triple to cut the BYU lead to 4-3 in the eighth.
Pepperdine outfielder Brandon Caruso then doubled to the right center field gap to tie the score at four. A single from Matt Gelalich gave Pepperdine the 5-4 lead in the eighth.
After an error and an infield single, BYU had runners on first and second with only one out in the bottom of the ninth trailing by one run. Sophomore first baseman Cole Wilstead stepped up to the plate and tied the game with an RBI single. Nielsen scored from second to knot the game at five and send it to extra innings.
BYU senior right-hander Brandon Kinser (1-1) started on the mound for the Cougars and gave up two line-drive singles and a double to right field as the Waves took an early 1-0 lead in the first.
“Kinser is such a competitor,” Littlewood said. “He’s a senior, he’s mature and we kind of just give him the ball and say go do your thing and he did that today.”
With two outs and two Waves on base, Kinser forced Chris Fornaci to hit a foul ball to right field that tailed toward the Pepperdine bullpen. BYU’s Urry went full speed and sprawled out to make a fully extended diving catch in foul territory to get the Cougars out of the second.
Cougar second baseman Tanner Chauncey led off the second inning with a double to left field. Senior designated hitter Dillon Robinson followed that up with a double of his own that bounced off the left field wall, scoring Chauncey and tying the game at 1-1.
Later in the second, senior catcher Jarrett Jarvis faced a 0-2 count with the bases loaded and battled back to earn a walk, and BYU took the 2-1 lead when Robinson trotted home.
Senior Parker Starr roped a double down the left-field line on the first pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning for BYU. Urry laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Starr to third with only one out in the inning.
Jarvis stepped up to the plate and drilled a triple that bounced off the diving Pepperdine outfielder’s glove and bounced all the way to the wall. Jarvis coasted into third, and Starr scored to put BYU up 4-1.
With a 4-1 lead, Kinser got out of some trouble in the fifth after beaning the leadoff hitter and giving up a single to start the frame. Pepperdine had runners on first and third and nobody out when Kinser forced a tailor made 6-4-3 double play to get out of trouble while only giving up one run in the inning.
After giving up a leadoff double in the seventh, Kinser got two groundouts and a strikeout to get out of trouble and keep the BYU lead at 4-2 heading to the stretch. In seven innings, the Cougar starter gave up seven hits and only two earned runs.
Sophomore right-hander Michael Rucker (2-1) shut down Pepperdine in the ninth and 10th innings to pick up the 6-5 win for BYU coming off his second save.
The Cougars travel to Gonzaga for a three-game series in Spokane, Washington, on March 19-21. All three games will be streamed online on TheW.TV or broadcast live locally on KOVO 960 AM.
Zach Brady is a student at BYU and current BYU swimming & diving SID. TWITTER: @Zachbrady7 EMAIL: [email protected].