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BYU baseball, Michael Rucker dominate in 11-2 win over Gonzaga

Cougars move into 1st place after another stunning performance by their star pitcher.

Michael Rucker delivers a strike.
Michael Rucker delivers a strike.
Keith Shirts/Vanquish The Foe

If you haven't had the pleasure of watching Michael Rucker yet, find a way.

After another awesome performance, Michael Rucker is 9-0 on the season. Rucker's 9 wins mark the most by any pitcher in America.

Last night against the Zags, the talented right-handed pitcher went 7 innings with 1 run and 6 hits allowed, a walk, and 6 K's.

In the 2016 campaign, Rucker has a 2.66 ERA over his 74.1 innings pitched. Having allowed 53 hits and 22 walks, Ruck's WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is a sizzling 1.009! He also has 71 strikeouts on the season -- nearly 1 K per inning! Opposing bats are hitting a .202 batting average on Rucker's arm.

Here is a look at all 12 of Rucker's appearances this season:

Game (score, BYU first) Innings Pitched Hits Runs Walks Strike Outs Opp. Batting Average Earned Run Average
vs. St. Louis (21-7) 6 5 2 1 8 0.217 3.00
@ Samford (7-1) 7 4 1 1 7 0.167 0.00
@ Kansas (11-10) 3.1 6 5 4 5 0.400 13.50
vs. Niagara (14-1) 8 3 1 1 10 0.120 0.00
vs. Pacific (19-3) 6 4 2 1 7 0.182 3.00
vs. Loyola Marymount (4-1) 9 3 1 1 8 0.120 1.00
@ Portland (8-2) 6 5 1 2 5 0.217 1.50
vs. Arizona (5-11) 1 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.00
vs. San Diego (12-2) 6.2 8 2 4 6 0.296 2.70
@ St. Mary's (4-5) 7 7 4 2 5 0.250 5.14
vs. Creighton (13-3) 7.1 2 4 4 4 0.091 4.91
vs. Gonzaga (11-2) 7 6 1 1 6 0.240 1.29

The scary part for future foes is found in head coach Mike Littlewood's assertion during last night's postgame interview on ESPN 960 with Brent Norton that Rucker "hasn't had all 3 pitches working in a game yet -- maybe once." Instead it is Rucker's approach, demeanor, and competitiveness that has led to his unblemished record.

Every opening game of a weekend series sees two things. First, the Cougars are in a position to win with their ace on the mound. Second, a collections of MLB scouts each equipped with stopwatches, video cameras, and speed guns. After each pitch, en masse the scouts frantically take notes and record their findings.

I've struck up a couple conversations with the pro scouts at the games. They like a lot of the Y players, but there is a lot of chatter in particular about Rucker. In Rucker they find an enticing prospect. An arm with strong command, smooth delivery, and the ability to hit 96 on the gun. They, too, have taken notice of Rucker's "veteran mindset." All in all, I was told that I'm looking at "a potential big league starter."

Rucker transferred to the Y in 2013 from Gonzaga. Put simply, he left Spokane because he was unhappy. His high school sweetheart was attending BYU and he missed her. Beyond that, Michael was making the choice to be baptized as a member of the LDS church. Rucker had only one destination in mind, Provo.

Last night was Rucker's first opportunity to start against his old squad. The game carried with it an extra intensity in a contest that already had plenty to play for -- 1st place in the West Coast Conference standings.

Gonzaga tried all they could to mess with Rucker. They struck in the top of 1st with 3 hits and a run. The Bulldogs dugout was vocal and passionate about their early success. Trying to get to the junior pitcher.

When the Cougar batters step to the plate in the bottom of the 1st, they scored 3 runs in response. Perhaps more importantly, the 9 Y batters ate away 50 PITCHES off the talented Gonzaga ace Brandon Bailey in the frame. The frustration level of the Bulldogs boiled as they made 2 separate appeals to the umpires contesting calls. The energy of the Cougar dugout had matched what was being presented by Gonzaga. The now-mustache-less mafia of BYU was backing up their guy Rucker.

Lifted by his current team's support, Rucker went onto strike out the side in the top of the 2nd -- the first of 6 consecutive "0" posted to the scoreboard.

The Brigham Bats would continue to put to pressure on. Home Runs by Tanner Chauncey and Bronson Larsen would highlight a scoring onslaught that saw the Cougars scored in each of the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings.

Gonzaga would get another run across home plate in the top of the 9th, but by that point the massacre had already occurred. BYU won 11-2.

The win moves the Cougars to 1st place in the WCC standings by 1/2 a game.

For Rucker personally, the victory represented a vindication of his decision to transfer from Gonzaga to BYU. If that wasn't clear to Michael Rucker before last night, it is now. Rucker tweeted following the game:

BYU continues their critical series against Gonzaga tonight at 6 PM MST at Miller Field. The final game of the series will be played 1 PM MST. Both games will be broadcast on BYUtv and ESPN 960.