Michael Rucker pitched a complete game to lead No. 23 BYU over LMU, 4-1, to keep pace for first place in West Coast Conference play Thursday.
"It’s nice to have a guy (Rucker) on the mound that when you call a pitch and a location, you know he’s going to hit that spot," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "That’s how we needed to open this series. Our approach was excellent on the offensive side. We didn’t try to do too much. We used the middle of the field. When he (LMU pitcher) gave us something to hit, which wasn’t very often, we made him pay a little bit.”
Rucker pitched all nine innings for the Cougars. He recorded seven strikeouts and only surrendered three hits. Rucker’s complete game is the first recorded by any BYU pitcher this season. His record remains spotless at 5-0.
Keaton Kringlen led the Cougar offense, hitting 2-for-3 with the game-winning RBI. Brennon Lund also added one RBI, batting 2-for-4. Colton Shaver increased his hitting streak to 11 games. He went 1-for-3 in Thursday’s matchup.
Lund tripled to lead off the game, hitting a low shot to center field. Tanner Chauncey then gave BYU the early 1-0 lead as he hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Lund.
With two outs in the bottom of the second, Kringlen singled up the middle scoring Brennon Anderson to go up 2-0. BYU tallied three hits in the second inning.
In the top of the fourth, Nate Favero had a great stab at third and threw a bullet home to get the out. The play stopped the Lions from getting on the board and also generated a heated discussion at the plate.
Ryan Erickson led off the top of the sixth for the Lions with a triple. LMU recorded its first run as Spencer Erdman laid down a textbook bunt to bring a runner from third across the plate, closing the gap to 2-1. Rucker then almost single-handedly recorded the next three outs.
Rucker recorded his fourth strikeout in a pivotal moment in the top of the seventh, striking out Niko Decolati for the first out of the side. After Rucker walked the next batter, the junior hurler casually threw the ball to first. Then, Chauncey alertly saw the LMU runner rounding second and the Cougars tagged the Lion runner in a pickle to complete the double play.
In the bottom of the seventh, Lund grounded a ball up the middle to get on first. On that play, the LMU second basemen overthrew first base to score Kringlen on an error. At the next at-bat, Nielsen singled past the infield to score Lund. With both runners passing the plate, the Cougars took the 4-1 lead.
With the win tonight, BYU kept pace in the race for first place in the league. With San Francisco and Saint Mary’s both recording conference wins Thursday, three teams are tied for first.
BYU plays its second game of the three-game series against the Lions on Friday. The game has been moved up to 3 p.m. MDT, due to weather concerns. Fans can follow the game live through links on BYU's website, BYUtv and ESPN Radio 960 AM.