Throughout most of their game Tuesday night at Smith’s Ballpark against BYU, it appeared as though the Utes would get back at the Cougars for walloping them 20-3 on Mar. 4. BYU had a different plan.
Trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning, the Cougars scored two runs to tie things up. The contest ultimately went into extra innings before BYU prevailed in the 11th inning by a score of 4-3. The Cougars’ Brock Whitney hit a single to lead off the frame and was bunted home by Parker Starr. The loss was Utah’s fourth in a row and eighth in their past nine games.
“It’s tough, man,” said senior infielder TJ Bennett. “It’s definitely a heartbreaker, what they did coming back in the eighth. We felt like we had that one.”
Head coach Bill Kinneberg offered some analysis of why his team walked away defeated.
“We had opportunities to score more runs, and we didn’t get it done,” he said. “We had lots of opportunities throughout the whole game and had a lead and didn’t hold it.”
While Tuesday’s contest had the same ending result as the one three weeks ago in Provo, the contest itself was drastically different. In the teams’ first game of the season, BYU jumped on the Utes early en route to a big victory. On Utah’s home field, however, the showdown was more of a defensive battle. The Utes still gave up 11 hits on the evening, a number which paled in comparison to 21 days ago when they gave up 10 hits in the second inning alone. Utah tallied nine hits Tuesday.
If there was a bright side to the defeat, it was the fact that the Utes’ offense got going a bit after struggling mightily against the Oregon Ducks last weekend. In three contests in Eugene, Utah batters crossed home plate on just two occasions. Though the Utes’ offense wasn’t explosive by any means Tuesday night, the three runs they did score certainly gave them some confidence.
Helping Utah maintain its lead was sophomore starting pitcher Dalton Carroll, who pitched six innings while only allowing one run on four hits. Senior Tanner Banks relieved Carroll in the seventh inning and struck out three Cougars in one and two-thirds innings of work, but started the slide in the eighth, giving up a run. Senior Nick Green came in for Banks in the eighth and gave up the second run in that frame. He was the Utes’ final pitcher of the night.
The road doesn’t get a whole lot easier for Utah moving forward, as it will head back out on the road to face Cal this weekend for a three-game set in Berkeley.
“It’s tough to go through what we’re going through right now,” Bennett said. “It’s going to show what we’re made of. It’s our time to show what we’re made of. It’s going to hurt tonight, but we’ll move on and get better and do the things we need to do.”