When a baseball team is hitting near the Mendoza line, taking care of the other areas of the game is an imperative.
BYU committed four errors on Thursday night – three of them leading directly to Portland runs – and couldn’t rally late, losing to the Pilots 5-3 in the first of a three-game series at Miller Field.
Coming into the game the Cougars were hitting .209 as a team – a woeful 277th out of 284 Division I college programs. Against Portland, BYU mustered enough offense to lead twice (1-0 and 3-2) but struck out 15 times and couldn’t overcome the early errors.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming the pattern for us,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “We’ll hit ‘em 100 ground balls in practice and they’ll field 99 of them. But when the lights come on, when things are on the line and things matter, they’re just not making plays. Our infield defense lost this game for us today.
We literally just gave the game away with the infield defense.”
In the bottom of the first, Cooper Vest legged out a double and come home on Andrew Pintar’s single for a 1-0 Cougar lead. Starter Easton Walker sailed through to the fourth inning before two errors resulted in pair of Portland runs and a 2-1 lead for the visitors.
Josh Cowden pounded a Brett Gillis pitch over the right-field fence in the bottom of the fourth for a two-run shot and a 3-2 BYU lead.
The Pilots took control in the top of the seventh, again taking advantage of a Cougar error. Portland laid down a bunt to move the runners but Cougar third baseman Peyton Cole threw the ball away to allow the Pilots to tie the score at 3. Portland added two more runs on a sac fly and a single for a 5-3 advantage.
BYU relievers Mikade Johnson and Cooper McKeehan pitched out of jams in the eighth and ninth to give the home team a chance for a rally, but the Cougars went meekly in the ninth with a pair of strikeouts and a ground out against Portland closer Eli Morse.
The Pilots (15-13 overall, 7-3 WCC) got three innings of scoreless relief from Caleb Franzen and two hits apiece from Jake Holcroft and Chad Stevens.
Pintar had two hits for BYU, which dropped to 9-16 overall and 5-5 in WCC play.
In baseball we learn to have short memories and come back tomorrow and go back to work
“I guess my biggest concern is we’re doing everything right pregame,” Littlewood said. “The guys have energy but when the ball is hit to them they need to catch it and throw it. Do the pitchers have confidence in our infielders to make plays? All we can do is come back tomorrow keep working on things and try to get better.”
The two teams meet again Friday at 6 p.m. MT at Miller Field with the finale Saturday at 1 p.m.