Senior shortstop Hayden Nielsen’s first career home run in the second inning led BYU to an 11-4 win over Pacific on Friday night at Larry H. Miller Field.
“Hayden is automatic,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “At BYU, when the ball is hit to short it’s going to be an out right now. I’ve had a lot of good shortstops over the years, but none as solid and as consistent as Hayden. We want a professional approach with a college attitude, and he has it. He might not be the flashiest guy but that consistency means so much.”
BYU keeps its win streak alive, notching 12 wins in a row while continuing the best start in team history (18-1, 2-0 in the West Coast Conference). The current win streak is fifth best in team history. Pacific falls to 6-12, 0-2 in the WCC.
BYU totaled 13 hits and 10 RBIs on the night. Colton Shaver continued his strong streak of play, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Bronson Larsen went 2-for-4 and added his third home run of the season. Nielsen, who recorded his first career dinger, hit 3-for-5 with two RBIs in the game. Shaver leads the team with a nine-game hitting streak.
Winning pitcher Maverik Buffo (4-0) pitched six complete innings for the Cougars and left the game at 10-1. Buffo, who hails from Spanish Fork, like Nielsen, notched five strikeouts and only allowed one run.
“Maverik had a great night,” Littlewood said. “With Pacific, if you make a mistake, they are going to make you pay. They are going to hit mistakes. But I loved Buffo’s stuff tonight. He threw 90 and 92 (mph), which is special. His change-up was good. Whenever he got into trouble, he just refocused and the inning was done.”
With two men on in the first, Eric Urry hit a ground-out RBI, bringing Nielsen home and moving Tanner Chauncey to third, with the score set at 1-0. Shaver then hit a long RBI single to left field to score Chauncey, putting the Cougars up 2-0.
Nate Favero knocked a deep triple to left field to start the second inning. Larsen then blasted a two-run homer over the left field fence to put BYU up 4-0. Two batters later, Nielsen bounced a shot off the fair side of the foul pole for his first career homer, extending the lead to 6-0. While on first, Urry stole a base and took advantage of an error on a ball that sailed over second, putting him on third. Shaver then chopped a ball over second base to shallow center for an RBI, plating Urry and bringing the score to 7-0.
With the bases loaded in the third, Buffo got the Cougars out of a jam with some great pitching, hurling a strikeout and then a pop up out. In the bottom of the inning, Larsen doubled to left with Brock Hale on first for an RBI, with the Hale run extending the lead to 8-0. Nielsen then got a hit, advancing Larsen to third. A walk from the Pacific pitcher scored Larsen and put the Cougars up 9-0.
A Tiger double in the fourth scored a run to bring things to 9-1. With Urry on in the bottom of the inning, Shaver hit an RBI double that he tried to extend to a triple but slid into an out. The Cougars ended the inning with a 10-1 lead.
In the seventh, Pacific hit consecutive doubles to set the score at 10-2. A Tiger two-run homer from Danny Mayer then brought the margin to 10-4, but two big strikeouts from Bo Burrup got the Cougars out of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, with Brennon Anderson on, Keaton Kringlen hit an RBI double to center, bringing the final score to 11-4.
BYU wraps the three-game series with Pacific on Saturday, March 19, at 1 p.m. MDT, at Miller Park. Fans can follow the game live through links on BYU's website, BYUtv, BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143 and ESPN Radio 960 AM.