By Dean Boerner | Sports Editor
Soon after their six-game winning streak was snapped by No. 1 Oregon State in heartbreaking fashion, Saint Mary’s traveled to Provo, Utah, in what turned out to be a continuation of the struggles that started on Tuesday. The Gaels (17-10, 3-3 WCC) dropped three straight to BYU (14-11, 4-2 WCC), with the Saturday series finale ending in a 14-1 thumping of a Saint Mary’s club now on a four-game losing streak.
The week began auspiciously enough for Saint Mary’s. With the consensus No. 1 team visiting and riding a 15-game winning streak, the Gaels wasted no time making their presence felt. Freshman Kevin Milam snuck a second-inning fastball over the right-field wall to put Saint Mary’s up 1-0.
Oregon State tied the game in the top of the fourth, but Saint Mary’s regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning. With Milam on third base and just one out, sophomore Charles Zaloumis flied one deep enough to allow Milam to tag and score. Then Joey Fiske drove in Joe Vranesh with a single, and the Gaels found themselves up 3-1.
In the meantime, sophomore starter Conner Loeprich had found a nice groove on the mound for Saint Mary’s. The righty retired his first six batters faced and ended up allowing just one run in five innings. He gave way to fellow sophomore Ty Madrigal, who carried Saint Mary’s from the sixth to into the ninth inning with the Gaels still up 3-1.
But that’s when the mayhem started for Saint Mary’s. Madrigal exited the game after allowing a ninth-inning baserunner, and the Gaels’ de facto closer Milam entered the game. Saint Mary’s nearly ended the game on a double-play, but the inning—and the Beavers’ winning streak—would continue. A single and two walks loaded the bases and forced home a run, and Beavers infielder Nick Madrigal lined home two runs to complete the comeback for Oregon State.
Saint Mary’s had only a short break before flying to BYU for their three-game series. Game one of the series started chaotically for both teams at Miller Park, but BYU ended up triumphing 7-6 over Saint Mary’s.
In the top of the first, Saint Mary’s scored three runs on Cougars starter Maverik Buffo, but they only ended up in a tie game after one frame, allowing BYU to score three runs of their own in the first.
Saint Mary’s put another two runs on the board in the top of the second, but BYU responded an inning later to tie the game again the third inning.
The Gaels took yet another lead in the fifth inning when Edward Haus drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. The Gaels took that lead into the seventh, when BYU took the lead for good.
And it all happened with two outs. Against freshman pitcher Andrew Hansen, who had neutralizing a good BYU lineup through four innings of relief, the Cougars struck quickly for two runs. BYU’s Brock Hale doubled, then Keaton Kringlen found some luck when a line-drive to right got by a diving Vranesh, rolling all the way to the wall and permitting Kringlen to come all the way home on an inside-the-park homerun.
While Thursday’s matchup was exciting, the ensuing games on Friday and Saturday turned out to be comfortable wins of 6-2 and 14-1 for a BYU team that tied Saint Mary’s for first place in the WCC last season.
After BYU scored twice in the first, the Gaels responded with two of their own in the second. Milam doubled home Haus, and then Logan Steinberg singled to right to drive in Milam in tie it 2-2.
But that would be as close as the Gaels would get. BYU’s Nate Favero drove in a run in the second with a triple. The Cougars would add three more runs from that point, including two on a fifth-inning single by designated-hitter Bronson Larsen, who had three hits Friday afternoon.
Finally, on Saturday, the Cougars used a 14-run offensive explosion and a great outing by starter Hayden Rogers to complete the sweep over Saint Mary’s. Leading the charge for the BYU offense was the sophomore Kringlen, who went 4 for 5, launching three homeruns and driving in seven of BYU’s 14-run output.
Saint Mary’s continues a long road trip this week. They visit Nevada on Wednesday for a single game prior to taking on USF in San Francisco for a three-game series.