For the first four and a half innings at Miller Park Tuesday night, the Utah Valley baseball team looked like the better ballclub.
It’s a shame baseball games don’t last four innings.
Luke McCullough (2-2) was dealing for the Wolverines through the first four innings, but the Bat Cats of BYU broke through in the fifth to take the lead for good, ultimately taking the ballgame 7-0 and clinching the season sweep over UVU. The Cougars hit three home runs on the evening, a pair of solo blasts from Josh Cowden and a two-run shot from Collin Reuter.
“BYU’s a really talented team,” said UVU head coach Eddie Smith. “It was really cool to see Luke McCullough go toe-to-toe with them for five innings. He has some really good stuff and we’re really hopeful that he can continue to develop and emerge. We didn’t quite make some plays together there late, and we couldn’t string anything together offensively, and those areas we’re striving to get better at every single day.”
The Wolverines had a pair of prime scoring opportunities in the second and third innings, but were unable to break through. In the second, Paul Vossen started the rally with a one-out single. Jake Porter’s wild pitch on ball four to Garrett Broussard allowed Vossen to advance to third. Drew Sims grounded into a double play to end the threat.
After recording two outs in a matter of five pitches, Mitch Moralez scorched a double to right-center for some two-out thunder for the Wolverines. Mick Madsen grounded a single through the left side of the infield, but Moralez was thrown out at home.
The Cougars finally broke through in the fifth and knocked McCullough out of the game. Cowden smoked a no-doubt home run off the scoreboard in right field, his second of the year. Alex Sardina singled up the middle, which was the decisive blow for McCullough’s night.
Blake Zeleny came on in relief and gave up a two-run shot to Collin Reuter, who took him out to the deepest part of the yard in center field. BYU got two more runners on base in the inning, but the damage was limited to three runs.
BYU tacked on runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth to push the lead up to seven. Cowden hit his second solo home run in as many innings in the sixth. Ryan Sepede doubled home Ozzie Pratt and Mitch McIntyre in the seventh. Dawsen Hall came around to score in the eighth on a single to right field by Ayden Callahan.
Despite the loss to BYU, it’s easy to see improvements up and down the lineup since the first meeting with the Cougars a month ago. Prior to that first meeting, the Wolverines had gone 6-14, and have since improved with a 9-12 mark since then, including going 6-7 in WAC play during that span. Smith says the last couple of weeks have seen some regression, but he likes where his team is at heading into the final month of the season.
The Wolverines return home for a three-game set against WAC West division-leading Grand Canyon, which ranks 30th in the nation in RPI and is receiving votes in a plethora of Top-25 rankings. UVU is currently on the outside looking in at fifth place in the West, with the top four teams from each division qualifying for the WAC Tournament in Arizona over Memorial Day weekend. Smith knows this series against GCU will be tough, but he believes his team has what it takes.
“We have to play our brand of baseball and do that consistently for every single pitch. There’s less margin for error when you play Grand Canyon. They’re a very good team. We’re gonna have to play our kind of baseball very consistently if we’re going to have the results and the wins that we need. It’s a fun challenge. I like playing these guys.”
Friday’s series opener against the Lopes is scheduled to begin at 6:05 MDT. Each game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Senior Staff Writer
Nathan is a senior studying Communications. In addition to covering UVU athletics for The Review, Nathan also covers BYU athletics for ESPN 960. Nathan hails from the Bay Area in California, and keeps tabs on the Giants, 49ers, and Warriors in his spare time.