The Cougars responded with a three-run inning, taking the lead for good en route to a 6-1 win over Sacramento State at the Stanford Regional of the NCAA tournament. The win kept BYU alive and ended the Hornets' season.
The Cougars advance to Saturday's losers' bracket championship at 2 p.m. MDT. They will face Stanford, which lost to Cal State Fullerton, 4-1 late Friday night. The winner of that game will face Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
BYU is playing in its first NCAA tournament since 2002. The Cougars didn't want their stay to be a short one. Hayden Rogers took the mound on Friday and was near-dominant. The left-hander used his fastball, breaking ball and change-up to keep Sacramento State off balance for 61⁄3 innings. He allowed one run on three hits with a career-high eight strikeouts against three walks.
Rogers is normally BYU's No. 3 pitcher behind Maverik Buffo and Brady Corless. After bypassing Buffo for Corless on Thursday, Littlewood chose Rogers for the elimination game.
"Hayden Rogers gave us just an incredible outing today," Littlewood said. "I think he has been our No. 1 without starting the first game [of a series]. He has just been that consistent guy. What a great guy at the end of the series. I felt totally comfortable giving him the ball."
Rogers was talking to himself walking off the mound in the first when he gave up his only run.
"I've kind of had a habit of talking to myself on the mound," Rogers said. "It kind of helps me calm down, it helps me stay focused and do what I need to do. After they scored that first run, I wasn't too happy, and I knew I needed to bear down and throw strikes.
"And also, I knew offensively we were going to get hot and they were going to pick me up. I felt zero pressure when they scored in the first because I knew we were going to go ahead and take the lead."
Littlewood said the team is now right where it wants to be with No. 1 Buffo scheduled to start on Saturday. The Cougars are hoping to duplicate last weekend's rally in the West Coast Conference tournament when they also lost their opener, then won four straight to take the title.
BYU played without starting left-fielder David Clawson, who was sick.
As a result, Brannon Anderson moved to left and Brian Hsu got his fourth start of the season at second base. Anderson appeared to misplay a ball in the first that turned into an RBI double off the bat of James Outman, but he later doubled in a run to make up for it.
Hsu, batting ninth, had a key hit in the three-run rally in the third.
The offensive star was Tanner Chauncey, who went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. His two-run double in the seventh broke the game open.