MORAGA, Calif. -- Freshman right-hander Cameron Neff continued his recent run of dominance for the Saint Mary's baseball team and the Gaels bounced back from a loss in the first game of Friday's doubleheader to beat BYU 6-1 and claim their second straight West Coast Conference series victory.
With Friday's split, Saint Mary's ends the week at 13-13 overall and 5-1 in WCC play. BYU heads home with an overall record of 10-19 and a 2-7 mark in conference.
"In a doubleheader, there's no time to really think about it or anything. You've got to get going in 30 minutes," Saint Mary's coach Eric Valenzuela said. "We did a good job of that, and it all starts on the mound like I always say. With Neff doing his thing in game two, he was able to hold out long enough for us to get an execution inning like we had in the seventh when we scored four."
Saint Mary's forged ahead with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth but BYU responded with one in the seventh and two in the eighth to take the first game of the day.
The game-winning rally for BYU came after Gaels starter Anthony Gonsolin exited. With two outs in the eighth, pinch hitter Bret Lopez singled off SMC reliever Brad Nease to give the Cougars a runner. Dillon Robinson followed with a single of his own, moving pinch runner Bryan Heward to third. Brock Whitney then struck the game's biggest blow, doubling to to left-center to score both Heward and Robinson.
Saint Mary's threatened in the eighth but could not tie the score against two BYU relievers. That gave Kolton Mahoney, who pitched quite well for the Cougars, the win and dealt Nease his first loss of the season.
Gonsolin turned in another good performance on the mound, backing up last week's seven shutout innings at Portland by allowing just two runs (one earned) in 7 1/3 innings. He scattered six hits and struck out six.
"They got the big hits when they needed to and that's how they won the game," Valenzuela said. "We had opportunities, we didn't get the big hit and that's why we lost. I thought we pitched good enough but that's the way it goes."
Neff was simply dominant yet again, throwing his third complete game in his last four starts to lead Saint Mary's to a 6-1 win that clinched the Gaels' second-straight series victory.
The right-hander engaged BYU starter Jeff Barker in a pitcher's duel for the first five innings, with each hurler posting nothing but zeroes. Saint Mary's finally broke through in the sixth when a perfect squeeze bunt by Ian McLoughlin brought Ferguson in to score the game's first run.
Saint Mary's big offensive inning came in the seventh after BYU tied it with a run in the top of the inning. Darian Ramage plated Ricky Boas with another expertly placed squeeze bunt, a run scored on a wild pitch and Hornsby drove in another with a sacrifice fly. Anthony Villa drove in the final run of the frame with a single to left and by the time the inning was over, the Gaels led 5-1.
That was more than enough support for the freshman from Salinas, Calif. BYU's run in the seventh snapped a stretch of 32 2/3 innings in which Neff hadn't allowed an earned run, quite the impressive feat for the Gaels' usual Saturday starter. He retired 15 in a row at one point Friday, running through the BYU lineup with his full complement of pitches to choose from.
Neff needed just 101 pitches to finish Friday's finale. He stopped a potential BYU rally in the eighth by striking out Robinson to end the inning, then allowed just a single in the ninth before getting a grounder to first to end the game. He struck out five while scattering seven hits and allowing zero walks.
"After getting more and more starts, I'm starting to settle in and mature a little more. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's getting a little easier," Neff said. "Coach (Valenzuela) told me going in that they're a pretty aggressive team so we made sure to mix in our off-speed (pitches) early in the count and then come in hard with fastballs later in the count."
Gonsolin had two hits in the game to lead Saint Mary's offensively. Friday's doubleheader was played in anticipation of rain on Saturday, so the Gaels now have a few days away from game action before returning to the diamond Tuesday at UC Davis. WCC play continues next weekend when Saint Mary's hosts Pepperdine for three games beginning on Friday.