BYU Wins Opening Day
SURPRISE, Ariz. – An explosive eighth inning and strong defense gave BYU baseball a 7-1 opening day win over Gonzaga at Surprise Stadium.
The West Coast Conference rivals got an early look at each other, facing off in the non-conference game due to a scheduling quirk at the neutral site Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic; the two teams will also play a three-game series at Spokane in May.
"Tonight was exactly what I was hoping for – we got veteran leadership and our new guys all stepped up and did a great job," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "Justin Sterner was lights out for us which was exactly the start we needed to kick off the season. Reid McLaughlin did exactly what he was supposed to do out of the pen and on the offensive side we executed pretty well and Hayden Leatham stepped up big for us."
- With the game tied, BYU batted through the order and scored six runs in the eighth inning behind four singles, a double and two walks
- Justin Sterner threw 49 strikes out of 62 pitches to hold down the Zags into the seventh
- Reid McLaughlin and Jarod Lessar closed out the game on the mound, allowing just one hit between them in the final 2.2 innings
- Hayden Leatham: 1-3, HR, SF, 2 RBI
- Justin Sterner: 6.1 IP, 7 K, 4 H, ER
- Reid McLaughlin W (1-0), 1.2 IP, 1 K, 1 H, 0 ER
BYU starter Justin Sterner and Gonzaga starter Mac Lardner battled through the game’s first six innings with neither pitcher allowing a run to score. However, the Cougars pushed Lardner’s pitch count to close to the century mark, forcing the Bulldogs to go their pen to start the seventh inning.
Cougar outfielder Hayden Leatham, playing in his first game for BYU after transferring from the College of Southern Idaho, immediately took advantage, blasting the first pitch of the inning straight away over the centerfield fence for a home run.
The Bulldogs struck back in the bottom of the inning, knocking Sterner out of the game with two singles, then getting an RBI-single to tie things back up.
But the Cougars answered in the ensuing eighth, starting with a leadoff single by senior Abraham Valdez. Freshman Andrew Pintar, who had a bunt single in his first at bat earlier in the game, followed with a double, and sophomore Zack Peterson singled to left to score Valdez.
After a four-ball walk to junior Danny Gelalich, freshman Brock Watkins drew a full-count walk to score another run. Leatham followed with a sac fly for the third run of the inning.
A wild pitch moved the runners over, then junior Mitch McIntyre was intentionally walked to load the bases. Gelalich scored on the next at bat tagging up on a foul out by sophomore Austin Deming. Junior Bryan Call finished the scoring barrage with a single to right field to bring in Watkins and McIntyre.
In all, the Cougars’ six through nine hitters in the lineup totaled six of BYU’s eight hits on the night and nine batters each getting either at least one run or a hit.
Sophomore preseason All-American Reid McLaughlin came on in relief in the seventh, throwing 1.2 innings of scoreless ball to earn the win. Senior Jarod Lessar finished off the game, retiring the side in the ninth to seal the BYU victory.
BYU will next play two against New Mexico on Saturday, Feb. 15, with game one at 10 a.m. MT and game two at 3 p.m. MT.
BYU third baseman Austin Deming was selected by the Houston Astros in the 10th round of the 2023 MLB Draft at Lumen…