Brock Hale changed momentum and woke up a sleepy Saturday afternoon baseball game with one swing of the bat.
Hale’s monstrous grand slam home run in the second inning – his second of the week – was one of many big hits in BYU’s wild 17-9 win against San Francisco in front of 2,337 fans at Miller Field but it might have been the most effective at jump starting a stagnant Cougar offense.
“That home run was true energy,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “That energized the entire dugout. Today was Senior Day and we didn’t really focus up until Brock hit that grand slam. That gave us a feel that we could score some runs today.”
BYU fell behind 4-0 after two innings but loaded the bases with two outs in the third. That’s when Hale did his damage.
“I’ve always been a fastball hitter,” Hale said. “He (USF pitcher Joey Steele) struck me out in my last at bat with a fastball. I thought he was going to throw me another one. You could tell I was out in front of that curveball but he left it up and I was able to put it out. I knew it was going out for sure. I was able to set the tone with that grand slam and obviously our team did the rest.”
The Cougars took a 5-4 lead with five runs in the third but eventually had to battle back again, trailing 8-5 going to the bottom of the fourth. This time, it was a two-out bases load double by Jackson Cluff that scored three and a 3-run home by Mitch McIntyre that put BYU into the lead for good at 11-8.
Starter Justin Sterner and reliever Jared McLaughlin had rough outings but senior Blake Inouye stepped up big-time in his final home appearance. Inouye came on in the third and pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up five hits but just one run while striking out five.
“Those were great innings from Blake,” Littlewood said. “Especially if you factor in the enormity of game and all the momentum they (USF) had. They were confident. They didn’t feel like we could get them out, and we couldn’t. What Blake did today was incredible. He was able to eat up four innings for us. His league numbers are off the charts.”
Casey Jacobsen hit a solo home run and Cluff belted a three-run shot to keep the Cougars with a comfortable lead. McIntyre came in from left field to pitch in the seventh, getting a key strikeout with the bases loaded, and Drew Zimmerman closed things out in the ninth.
Cluff finished 4 for 5 with a home run and two doubles, driving in six runs. Hale was 2 for 5 with four RBI and for the three-game series drove in nine. The Cougars scored 16 of their 17 with two outs.
BYU hit four home runs (Hale, McIntyre, Cluff and Jacobsen) and four doubles for eight extra base hits, a season high.
The game lasted four hours and four minutes and featured 26 runs and 33 hits between the two teams.
The Cougars (33-14 overall, 17-7 WCC) are essentially assured a spot in the WCC Tournament but will likely need at least two wins in the final series of the season at Santa Clara next week to secure the conference title. On Tuesday, the Cougars will travel to Salt Lake City to play Utah in their final non-conference game.