Mike Rucker struck out eight Billiken batters Friday and got home runs from three teammates to lead BYU baseball to a 21-7 victory over Saint Louis University.
BYU, 1-0, got 93 pitches in six innings of five-hit work from the 6-foot-1 Rucker, who was impressive for the 16 pro scouts watching the Cougars host the season opener for both teams at AAA Cashman Field.
“That kind of outing is exactly why Mike (Rucker) is our opening day starter, and will anchor our staff,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “I'm really proud of our approach today. It's only one game but I couldn't be more proud of our guys today. We came out relaxed, ready to play today, and Mike set a great tone for us.”
Rucker, a junior right-hander from Washington, struck out pairs of SLU batters in the third, fourth and fifth innings as his teammates tallied a 6-2 lead before he left the game as the eventual winning pitcher.
The next three Cougars scored that inning, keyed by junior center fielder Brennon Lund beating out a bunt to load the bases. Nielsen ended up scoring the fourth run when Colton Shaver laced a single to left field.
Rucker surrendered his no-hit bid in the fourth with three-consecutive SLU pokes, capped by Josh Bunselmeyer’s two-out, two-run triple. Dean recaptured those pair of runs with a two-run homerun in the fourth, pounding a knee-high inside fastball sailing over the 20-foot-high left field fence 364 feet away.
“I've talked for a while about Kyle's (Dean) advanced approach at the plate and I believe today he showed why I've been saying that,” Littlewood said of Dean, the high school All-American who batted in the No. 8 slot.
Dean ended up batting 4-for-5, and Lund was 4-for-6 in the leadoff position.
The Cougars loaded the bases for naught following Dean’s smash in the fourth and loaded them again with in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Senior Eric Urry ended up with the game-winning RBI in the sixth from a single up the middle to plate Nielsen for the eighth run.
“I was extremely happy with our hitters, especially the bottom half of the order,” Littlewood said. “It's great to see that kind of production from seven, eight and nine.”
Sophomore Colton Shaver, batting as the designated hitter, belted a three-run homer in the seventh, the 14th of his young Cougar career. Two batters later fellow sophomore Brennon Anderson, batting seventh, drove a pitch also over the left field fence for a two-run homer, giving BYU a 17-6 margin.
All the Cougar starters either had a hit or batted in a run in the first of a four-game series. The two teams have a noon doubleheader on Saturday, followed by a single game on Monday in the weather-friendly climate.