The Utes will take wins any way they can get them, especially against rival BYU, after starting the season with 13 straight losses.
Utah scored the winning run on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning and edged the Cougars 4-3 on Tuesday night in front of an announced crowd of 2,920 at chilly Smith’s Ballpark to even the scheduled four-game series at one win apiece.
“It doesn’t always have to be pretty,” said Utah right fielder Erick Migueles, who hit a 3-run home run in the fourth inning to give the Utes a 3-1 lead.
But it was a thing of beauty for the Utes, now 7-20 after the horrendous start. BYU lost its third straight game to fall to 14-13.
With the scored knotted at 3-3, Utah got the go-ahead run in the seventh when Wade Gulden drew a bases-loaded walk off BYU reliever Rhett Parkinson. The Utes loaded the bases when Oliver Dunn walked on a full-count pitch, Braden DeBenedictis was hit by a pitch on another full count offering and Davis Delorefice reached on a fielder’s choice.
“Wade put a good at-bat together,” said Migueles, who has hit three homers in the past two games.
Delorefice’s grounder before Gulden’s RBI walk was fielded cleanly by BYU’s Hsu, but the Cougars first baseman’s throw to second hit DeBenedictis in the back and everyone was safe.
The Utes saw the fluke play as poetic justice because Delorefice’s liner down the right-field line moments earlier appeared to hit chalk when viewed on TV replay, but it was ruled foul by the first base umpire.
“At least we got one [run] out of it,” Utah coach Bill Kinneberg said. “That’s a tough play to call. ... That’s part of the game.”
After both teams turned double plays in the first inning, BYU opened the scoring in the third when Jarrett Perns singled to score Noah Hill.
It didn’t take the Cougars long to answer Migueles’ homer off BYU starter Bo Burrup, who otherwise pitched well for nearly six innings. Hsu’s two-run single off Utah reliever Josh Lapiana with the bases loaded scored Hill and Brennon Anderson to even it at 3-3.
“Bo did a good job,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “But he got behind too much today, and that is what happened on the home run. He gets behind and has to throw a cookie, and [Migueles] was just kinda sitting on it.”
The Cougars gambled in the seventh after getting runners on second and third with one out, and it cost them. After Hill singled and Perns doubled, Littlewood called for a squeeze bunt, but Daniel Schneeman wasn’t able to make contact with Lapiana’s offering, and Perns was thrown out.
“It was a tough pitch to put a bat on,” Littlewood said. “Schneeman has been struggling at the plate the last few weeks, and I just thought that left-left matchup was a good opportunity. We were actually trying to steal two runs right there. We had a runner at second going and with a good bunt I think we would have got two runs out of it, but high-risk, high-reward play, and it backfired.”
Lapiana then got Schneeman to pop out to end the uprising, and reliever Austin Moore shut the door on the Cougars in the eighth and most of the ninth before Trenton Stoltz entered late and threw one pitch to retire BYU’s Anderson and get the save.
Both teams got nine hits, but Utah had the only homer.
“I thought Moore was outstanding in the last two innings,” Kinneberg said. “Kudos to our pitching today. They were outstanding.”
Migueles said Utah’s turnaround — the Utes are 7-7 since the 0-13 start — is due to believing in themselves. As for beating BYU, the Arizonan said it was not a big deal.
“It is just another baseball team out there we are trying to beat,” he said. “We were just trying to win a ball game.”
Any way they can.