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BYU baseball, Michael Rucker lose 5-3 to Gonzaga in WCC tournament opener

In one of the best college baseball pitching performances of the season, Gonzaga's Brandon Bailey halted BYU in a dominate 17 strikeout outing.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

BYU lost their first game in the WCC tournament Thursday night. In a highly anticipated pitching duel, Gonzaga's Brandon Bailey got the best of BYU batters striking out 17 batters in his complete game performance.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Runs Hits Errors
Gonzaga 0 0 2 0 3 0 0 0 0 5 6 0
BYU 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 3 6 1

In the early going, Gonzaga's ace Brandon Bailey gave one of the best 3 inning stretches of any pitcher in the country -- especially when balanced against the powerful and skilled BYU batters. Bailey struck out 8, while giving up just 1 hit.

Gonzaga was able to get on the scoreboard in the top of the 3rd due to taking advantage of a good deal of fortune.

The inning started off with the Bulldogs Joey Harris sending the ball sky high off his bat to the left side of the ballpark. Uncharacteristically, the Y fielders of LF Eric Urry, 3B Daniel Schneemann, and SS Hayden Nielsen were unable to locate the baseball. Finally, the ball landed about 30 feet away from the closest Cougar. Given the snafu, Harris was able to make it to 2nd base.

Following a Michael Rucker strikeout, Gonzaga's Sam Brown sent a soft blooper to left field. Eric Urry put on the wheels and dive to make it to the ball in time, but the ball hit the heel of Urry's glove and squirted out onto the grass. Brown's single scored Harris from 2nd.

Later in the inning with 2 outs, WCC Player of the Year Jeff Bohling doubled to left scoring Brown. Gonzaga took a 2-0 lead.

The next scoring came in the top of the 5th inning. Gonzaga was able to place 3 runs on the scoreboard -- highlighted by Jeff Bohling with his 2nd double of the game. This time his hit was to right field and scored 2. Gonzaga extended their lead, 5-0.

The bottom of the 5th saw a big missed opportunity for the Cougars. BYU quickly jumped on Bailey as a pair of freshman, Keaton Kringlen and Daniel Schneemann, hit back-to back singles. The Cougars had runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. However, Gonzaga was able to force 3 outs before the Cougars could advance.

Bailey would continue his dominance in the bottom of the 6th inning as he struck out the side. He would strike out 4 consecutive batters into the 7th.

Bailey's strikeout streak was halted by Keaton Kringlen. Kringlen smashed a solo shot to get the Cougars on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 7th. Gonzaga 5 BYU 1.

BYU was able to get another run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 8th when catcher Bronson Larsen hit a home run off the foul pole in left field drawing the Cougars a run closer. Bulldogs still up 5-2.

In the bottom of the 9th, Eric Urry hit a solo home run to right field to bring the score to 5-3.

But Brandon Bailey would finish off the game. Bailey was outstanding in his complete game performance. He recorded a Gonzaga team record 17 strikeouts against 1 walk while allowing just 3 runs on 6 hits.

As for Michael Rucker, he was very good in his first loss of the season. Rucker finished with 8 innings pitched, 5 K's, 0 walks, 6 hits for 5 earned runs.

The Cougars are now in the loser bracket, and their next loss will eliminate the Cougars in the WCC tournament. They face Pepperdine next on Friday at 1 PM MST and a big uphill climb overall. The Cougars will need to win 4 straight over the next 2 days to win the conference tournament.