Provo • The baseball season is going so poorly for the Utah Utes this year that "any win is big for us," coach Bill Kinneberg said, feel good no matter the circumstances.
When they come against archival BYU, and in the fashion that Tuesday’s win came, they are probably worth savoring for days.
Storylines: Utah 12, BYU 10
Utah overcomes a six-run deficit to beat the Cougars for the first time this season
Utah’s Konnor Armijo belts a grand slam and finishes with six RBIs
Kelton Caldwell goes 4 for 4 and drives in two runs for BYU in the loss
Utes catcher Konnor Armijo hit a grand slam and drove in six runs altogether as the Utes overcame a six-run deficit and beat BYU 12-10 on a slightly rainy night at Miller Field. BYU still leads the season series 2-1, but the come-from-behind win means the Utes can even the score in the series finale next Tuesday at Smith’s Ballpark.
"You still take it personally any time you play BYU," Armijo said. That was especially true Tuesday, because the last time the Utes visited Provo, they were embarrassed 20-3.
Kinneberg said "no, no, no," when asked if he mentioned that beatdown before the game, but called it an "aberration."
Tuesday’s was heading that way again, but changed dramatically in the seventh with the Cougars leading 9-3.
A grounder off the bat of Utah’s Wyler Smith drilled BYU pitcher Michael Springer in the leg to load the bases, sending Springer to the dugout with a bruised shin.
After reliever Chris Howard gave up a run-scoring sacrifice fly to Max Schuman, Armijo belted the grand slam over the left-center field fence, and it was 9-8 in the blink of an eye.
"When it was 9-3, I am probably the one guy who knew it wasn’t over, just because I have been in this rivalry for 20 years," BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. "I understand that’s how it is going to be. Whoever has the last at-bat has a chance to win."
Littlewood said he pulled BYU starter Hayden Rogers after five innings because he needs him for conference games this weekend.
The Utes kept the momentum into the eighth, and took a 12-9 lead with a four-run uprising off Howard and then Kolton Mahoney. Armijo was the hero again, singling up the middle off Mahoney to drive in two runs after the Cougars failed to turn an easy double play.
"You can tell my mindset is in a negative space right now, just because we send college players out there, and they are not playing college baseball. So that’s frustrating," Littlewood said, lamenting three errors.
The Cougars outhit the Utes 17-12, but left 10 on base.
The Utes had hit three home runs all season before getting four against Washington in Sunday’s 21-17 loss and the big one Tuesday from Armijo, his second.
"We knew no lead was safe," Armijo said.
The Cougars took an 8-2 lead in the fourth on Bret Lopez’s two-run triple and Kelton Caldwell’s RBI double in the sixth made it 9-3.
The Cougars were seemingly cruising to their third-straight win over the Utes, but Armijo had other ideas, belting his grand slam with two outs and the count full.
Trailing 12-10 in the ninth, the Cougars got a base runner when Brennon Lund singled, but Parker Starr hit into a double play to end it.
"If we just play catch, we win this game going away - play catch and throw strikes," Littlewood said. ".. But tip your hat to them. Shoot, they got the hits when they needed them, and put up 10 runs in the last four innings."
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