Utah Valley used the long ball to build a 5-1 lead within the first two innings as Trey Cutchen, Copper Hansen and Cole Jordan all hit home runs. The Wolverines never looked back as they went on to defeat their in-state rivals Dixie State in the Old Hammer Rivalry on Thursday.
Mason Gray led the way for the Wolverines on the mound as he threw 6.2 innings and both Nick Simms and Josh Bell finished off the game in relief for Eddie Smith’s squad.
“It was all-around good baseball. To put up five runs in the first game of the series is always tough, and when you can do that, you are going to find yourself in a lot of games in the opening game of a series,” coach Smith said. “It was also great to see Mason Gray looking strong on the mound for us. I would argue that was his best outing of the year. That is the Mason Gray that we need. He’s worked really hard as of late, and it was really cool to see that outing from him today.”
After Dixie State’s Ethan He reached base on a leadoff single to right field to start the game, the Trailblazers were able to move him to second on a ground out for the first out of the inning. Sophomore catcher Kaden Hollow lined a hit to right field that scored He from second and put the first run on the board. UVU would get out of the top half of the inning trailing 1-0.
After senior Mitch Moralez led off the bottom half of the first inning with a single up the middle, Cutchen sent the first home run over the wall and off the light pole at UCCU Ball Park, putting the Wolverines up 2-1 after the first inning of play.
After holding the Trailblazers scoreless in the top half of the second inning, UVU looked to add onto their lead as Kyle Coburn reached base with a leadoff walk to start the inning. Hansen found the pitch he has been looking for all year as he hit a two run home run to right field putting the Wolverines up 4-1.
UVU wasn’t done adding to their lead in the bottom half of the second. Immediately following Hansen’s two run blast, Jordan sent a shot out to left field in what was back-to-back home runs for UVU that put them up 5-1 after the first two innings.
Gray gave the Wolverines six good innings of work, striking out two hitters and only walking three others. The trouble came in the seventh inning where Gray seemed to have lost some command of his pitches. After Gray loaded the bases by hitting He with a wild pitch to send him to first, Smith pulled Gray and brought in Sims in relief.
Sims walked the first hitter he faced which scored a run making it 5-2 in favor of the Wolverines. Dixie State’s Tyson Fisher then doubled to left, scoring two more runs and cutting UVU’s lead to just one run.
With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, the Trailblazers still had two runners in scoring position threatening to steal the lead from UVU. Hollow sent a ground ball to third base that came off the bat rather soft, creating a tough play for Wolverine third baseman Jordan. Jordan was able to get to the ball and make a cross-body throw to first to get the final out of the inning and stand the Dixie State runners while preserving the 5-4 lead.
UVU would go on to defeat the Trailblazers by the same score of 5-4 thanks to the pitching of Brown in the ninth inning, getting three quick outs to end the game.
The Wolverines are back in action on Friday at 4:05 p.m. MT. at UCCU ballpark for the second game of a three game series with Dixie State. The final game of the series will be Saturday at 12:05 p.m. MT. as the Wolverines look to avenge their series loss in St. George earlier this season. Both games can be watched live on ESPN+.
Brice Larson is currently a Junior at UVU majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and media studies. He enjoys everything about sports and one day hopes to become a college football analyst and play by play commentator.