When the season started on February 17, the following few weeks did not look promising for Utah Valley University’s baseball team. They continued to four straight losses against schools like The University of Nevada and, then ranked number eight, University of Arizona.
But the competition in March brought a new found confidence to the Wolverines after sweeping Southern Utah University and splitting a two-game series against number 11 Arizona State. Since their three-game series against Sacramento State University, UVU hasn’t seen a loss in 32 consecutive games.
That was until Tuesday night when UVU hosted the University of Utah in front of the second largest home crowd in Wolverine baseball history, eventually falling short to the Utes 11-10 in front of the 4,739 in attendance. The loss puts the Wolverines with a record of 39-12 on the season and a three-way tie for the fourth longest winning streak in NCAA history.
The top of the first inning showed UVU’s Adam Gunn pitching. Utah’s first hitter was James Brooks who hit a home run sparking the momentum for the Utes. The Wolverines first pair of runs came in the bottom of the second while with bases loaded, UVU’s Willie Pratt hit a two-run double to center field bringing the score 2-1.
UVU’s scoring drive continued in the second inning as Alex Exon came home off a Jake Rickenbach sacrifice fly. Following a walk from Sean Moysh, Billy Burgess took the plate and hit an RBI double to advance the Wolverines to a 4-1 lead. Austin Heaps added a two-run single bringing the score to 6-1.
UVU kept Utah scoreless during the third inning while advancing their score to 7-1 after Exon scored a run off of Pratt’s RBI single; Pratt’s RBI would be the last until the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Utes were able to tie the game 7-7 in the fifth inning when Utah’s Ethan Leiter scored a home run helping the Utes to UVU’s eventual 7-11 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning.
After singles from Rickenbach, Burges and Austin Heaps in the ninth, Goose Kallunki took to the plate while the crowd cheered “Goose, Goose, Goose” in what seemed to be a classic baseball moment.
With the bases loaded and UVU short of four runs, Kallunki hit a two-run single followed by a Kai Hatch RBI double putting Kallunki on third base. But a strike out with Exon at bat would seal the victory for Utah at 10-11 and end UVU’s 32 game winning streak.
“We are fighters and that is what we have done all year,” Kallunki said. “If people can’t see that then I don’t know what they’re watching.”
“When things are going bad they find a way to handle the momentum,” head coach Eric Madsen said. “I’m just very proud with the way that our guys have competed until the end.”
But as far as NCAA Regionals go, Madsen still feels confident for eligibility.
“To me it will be very unfortunate if one loss against a good Pac 12 team that keeps us out,” Madsen said. “I would be real disappointed in the system, for sure. Our guys have earned the opportunity to find a way to be in those regionals.”
After Tuesday night’s loss against the University of Utah, the Wolverines will move on to a home series against the University of Northern Colorado. Game one against UNC will be Thursday, February 17 at 6:00 pm.
Kevin Olsen is the Sports Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @kvnolsen