A must-win was secured by BYU baseball with a 4-2 victory over Loyola Marymount University on Saturday to stay alive in the West Coast Conference.
"I just loved our approach,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “This is the team that I always envisioned we could be, just playing solid. For (Brandon) Kinser to come back three days in a row was tremendous but he’s got that kind of arm and rarely do you see that out of a closer.”
BYU (16-25, 7-11 WCC) held LMU (24-16, 12-6 WCC) to just four hits compared to BYU’s 10.
Kolton Mahoney (5-5) started for the Cougars, throwing strikes and forcing LMU to swing the bats. He quickly retired the batters in order in the first inning. With BYU at the plate, Parker Starr got on base with a full-count single up the middle, but the Cougars left him stranded at first.
Teammate Hayden Nielsen doubled down the left-field line in the bottom of the third. Brennon Lund followed with a hard-hit single to right field. Eric Urry drew a walk with runner’s at the corners to load the bases, allowing Lund to score on a wild pitch, putting the Cougars up 1-0 over the Lions.
In the bottom of the fourth, Bret Lopez singled and then advanced on a groundout from Jarrett Jarvis. JC Snyder lined one to left, but the fielder caught it on the run, ending the inning before the Cougars could bring Lopez in.
Mahoney stayed strong on the mound, retiring all but one of the batters he faced through five innings.
“I felt really good today. It was really warm out, my body was loose and things were going well,” Mahoney said. “I had everything working and everything was down in the zone. I could throw any pitch I wanted for a strike early in the game and my curveball was working. When I have my curveball on, my fastball just jumps off of that.”
The Lions got their first hit in top of the sixth with a double followed by a triple to tie the score at 1-1. In the bottom of the inning, Kelton Caldwell busted it open for the Cougars with a single to right field to force a second pitching change. Lopez and Jarvis followed with RBI singles to retake the lead. Snyder drew a walk to load the bases with just one out. Nielsen hit a sacrifice fly to left to bring Lopez home for a 4-1 margin.
A bean ball followed by three wild pitches from Mahoney cost the Cougars another run and his exit from the game.
With runners at second and third, Brandon Kinser pulled BYU out of a bad situation with a big strikeout to end the half-inning. Then he threw just four pitches for three outs to end the game and record his fourth save of the season. The win gives BYU a 2-4 record wearing the old-school royal blue uniforms.
The Cougars play next in 10 days due to finals and graduation, where they’ll face Utah Valley University at Brent Brown Ballpark followed by a three-game series with Gonzaga at home.