PROVO, Utah — A wild first three innings led to late-inning drama Thursday, as BYU and Saint Mary’s combined to score 10 runs in the first three innings before the Cougars got a go-ahead inside-the-park home run in the seventh to edge the Gaels 7-6 in the West Coast Conference series opener at Miller Park.
Saint Mary’s freshman reliever Andrew Hansen (0-1) was cruising through his longest outing of the season, posting four straight shutout, no-hit innings. But BYU (12-11, 2-2 WCC) put together a two-out, go-ahead rally in the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back extra-base hits.
SMC (17-8, 3-1 WCC) was leading 6-5 when WCC-leading hitter Brock Hale broke through against Hansen with a two-out double. Keaton Kringlen followed with what looked to be a single to right field. But Joe Vranesh dove forward trying to make a play on the ball and end the inning. Instead, it scooted underneath him and rolled to the wall, allowing Kringlen to round the bases and score the go-ahead run on an inside-the-park home run.
Saint Mary’s grabbed two multi-run leads in the first two innings, but BYU answered back each time. The Gaels took their third lead of the game in the fifth on a sacrifice fly from Edward Haus, his third RBI of the contest.
Joey Fiske extended his hitting streak to eight games with a double in the second inning. Jackson Thoreson led SMC with a 2 for 5 day at the plate. Saint Mary’s did not have a hit after the fifth inning. It scored all six of its runs with seven hits during the first five frames.
SMC starter Cameron Neff allowed five walks in 2 2/3 innings Thursday. Three of those came around to score, accounting for three of BYU’s first five runs. Drew Strotman threw a scoreless bottom of the eighth in relief with two strikeouts.
The series continues Friday with game two scheduled for a 5 p.m. PDT start. The game will be televised live on BYUtv. Saint Mary’s right-hander Jake Valdez (3-1, 3.23 ERA) is scheduled to throw against BYU righty Brady Corless (2-0, 4.35 ERA).
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