I don’t think the score is indicative of how good of a game that was. It got away from us, no doubt about it. —BYU coach Mike Littlewood
BYU ran out of elimination-game magic Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars, who had won five consecutive win-or-go-home contests dating back to last week’s West Coast Conference tournament, lost to top-seed Stanford in the NCAA regional 9-1 at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond.
BYU, the West Coast Conference champion, finished its season with a 38-21 record. The Cougars posted a 1-2 record in NCAA Tournament play, falling to Cal State Fullerton and Stanford while earning a victory over Sacramento State.
Against the Cardinal, BYU starter Maverik Buffo went 6.2 innings and kept Stanford scoreless until the sixth inning. From that point on, the Cougars collapsed and the Cardinal took control.
“I don’t think the score is indicative of how good of a game that was,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood told KOVO Radio. “It got away from us, no doubt about it.”
Stanford starter Chris Castellanos stymied the Cougars, pitching a complete-game four-hitter.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to him. He brought his ‘A’ game for sure,” BYU second baseman/outfielder Brennon Anderson said of Castellanos. “We couldn’t quite make the adjustment. He had a great change-up. He came out and shut us down.”
“We could probably play 20 innings today, and if Castellanos was out there, we’d have one run,” Littlewood said. “He was unbelievable. He did a great job against us. He’s gutty. He didn’t want to come out of the game. He just didn’t give us an inch.”
BYU struck first in the fifth when Colton Shaver slugged a solo home run over the wall in left-center to break a scoreless game and give it a 1-0 advantage.
On the previous pitch, Shaver thought he had been walked and headed to first base before the umpire called him back to the plate. That was a good thing for the Cougars, because Shaver got BYU on the board.
But that lead was short-lived.
Stanford answered in the sixth frame with an RBI ground-out to tie the score at 1-1.
Then Jack Klein drilled a two-run home run to lift Stanford to a 3-1 lead. Just like that, the Cougars found themselves trailing for the first time.
“Their seventh hitter hit the ball about 400 feet,” Littlewood said of Klein. “It was a ball that was up a little bit in the zone. But that’s what good teams are supposed to do at home. Against a good team like this, you can’t make mistakes.”
Reliever Riley Gates replaced Buffo in the seventh and he promptly surrendered a two-run homer to Quinn Brodey to make it 5-1 for Stanford.
The next batter, Daniel Bakst, blasted a solo shot, giving the Cardinal back-to-back homers and a 6-1 lead. All three runs in the sixth came with two outs.
Buffo gave up six hits, four earned runs and had five strikeouts for BYU.
Stanford added three more runs in the eighth inning to extend its lead to 9-1.
“One pitch here, one play there, a couple of bad at-bats and before you know it, you’re down multiple runs,” Anderson said.
BYU kept Stanford scoreless for the first five innings. Buffo allowed a leadoff triple by Brodey in the fourth inning, but he retired the next three batters. In the fifth, Stanford advanced a runner to third again but Buffo got out of the jam again.
Despite Saturday’s loss, the 2017-18 season was a memorable one for BYU. The Cougars tied for the regular-season WCC title, won the WCC tournament championship and earned a berth to the NCAAs for the first time since 2002.
“This year has been awesome, to make it to the regional after the way we started,” Anderson said. “We turned it around and got to the regional.”