A career-high 15 strikeouts for junior ace Kolton Mahoney and some timely hitting in the eighth inning helped BYU baseball beat Portland, 3-2, on Thursday night.
“I can’t say enough about Kolton,” head coach Mike Littlewood said. “He just kept going out every inning and really gave us a chance to win. He was outstanding tonight.”
Mahoney (3-3) used 141 pitches through eight innings while giving up five hits and two earned runs to pick up the win. Along with being a career high and team season high, Mahoney’s 15 strikeouts ties him with Nate Fernley (2001) for third all-time in a game.
“I started off ahead of batters and that was the biggest thing,” Mahoney said. “Every time I got ahead of a hitter they didn’t know what to do because I had all my pitches available to me and I just tried to throw strikes.”
The Cougar offense struggled most of the night, hitting into three double plays and leaving 10 runners on base. Clutch hitting in the eighth inning proved to be enough for BYU (13-16, 5-5 West Coast Conference) to knock off Portland (6-25, 1-9 WCC) in game one of the three-game series at Larry H. Miller Field.
Portland took the lead in the eighth with a pair of two-out walks and a single to left field to give the Pilots a 2-1 advantage. Mahoney didn’t give up on the play, backing up senior catcher Jarret Jarvis after the throw home was off and deflected off his mitt. Mahoney collected the ball and threw down to second base to get the out on a six-assist play. Mahoney was the fourth player to touch the ball on the play and showed his leadership by sticking with it after giving up the run.
Senior Dillon Robinson led off the bottom of the eighth for the Cougars with a single and Colton Shaver doubled down the right field line to give BYU runners on second and third with nobody out, trailing 2-1.
Senior Eric Urry walked on a wild pitch and Robinson sprinted home to tie the game at 2-all in the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and third and nobody out.
Jarvis hit a short chopper down the first base line that didn’t make it past the pitcher's mound. It was slow enough for pinch-runner Andy Isom to score from third, giving BYU its first lead of the game at 3-2 heading into the final frame.
To start the game, sophomore Brennon Lund extended his team-leading nine-game hitting streak to lead off for BYU. After a Derrick Whitney walk, shortstop Hayden Nielsen laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Two batters later, Robinson walked with the bases loaded to score Lund and tie the game at one at the end the first inning.
Mahoney found his groove in the top of the third. The Cougar ace used a nice mix of his fastball and some off-speed pitches to strike out the side and keep the score knotted at one.
Mahoney found himself in some trouble in the top of the fifth. With runners on first and third and two outs, Mahoney fanned his 10th batter of the game to get out of the jam and keep the scored tied at one.
Tanner Chauncey started the sixth with a single just over the outstretched glove of the Pilot first baseman. A sacrifice bunt and two walks later the Cougars had the bases loaded with only one out. The Cougar offense couldn’t take advantage and left the bases loaded to end the inning.
With a 3-2 lead in the ninth, BYU sophomore Michael Rucker came into the ninth and closed the door on the Pilots to get the save and the BYU win.
BYU and Portland are back in action Friday at 6:00 p.m. MDT, at Larry H. Miller Field. The game will be broadcasted live on BYUtv, BYU Radio and KOVO 960 AM.
Zach Brady is a student at BYU and current BYU swimming & diving SID. TWITTER: @Zachbrady7 EMAIL: [email protected].