The Utah Valley University Wolverines took on fellow Utah County foe BYU on Tuesday, March 5. After hanging on for eight innings, the Cougars pulled away late to take home the victory 5-1 in the UCCU Cross Town Clash.
“We gave away too many opportunities. We haven’t struck out a lot as of late but seemed to struggle with that when we needed a hit tonight,” head UVU coach Eric Madsen said. “Overall I thought that we did some good things. But we’ve got to figure out a way to stop giving up free bases as well as driving people in when we have the opportunity to. The guys are battling, but it’s time to find a way to get to that next step and find a way to win.”
It took almost no time for the UVU baseball team apply pressure and get a man in scoring position Tuesday night.
Senior shortstop Trevor Howell took the first pitch he saw from BYU pitcher Jarod Lessar and roped a double down the left field line. The next batter was able to move him over to third on a groundout to the second baseman, putting Howell just 90 feet from the early go-ahead run. But, after two well-hit balls to the outfield, the Wolverines could not capitalize and Howell was left stranded on third.
Runners left on base would be the theme of the game. In the bottom of the first inning, the Cougars answered right back with a threat of their own. All three of BYU’s first batters reached base safely on singles, loading the bases with no outs recorded. UVU junior starting pitcher Matt Dalke, however, has experience getting out of jams. After falling behind 3-0 to BYU sophomore third baseman Jackson Cluff, who leads the team in RBIs, Dalke forced him to pop out to third. The biggest moment of the game came against the next Cougar batter. With bases still loaded and just one out, Dalke forced Keaton Kringlen to ground to second baseman Kody Hall, who turned a beautiful double play to shortstop Howell, ending the inning and avoiding any real trouble.
The score would remain tied at zero until the third inning, when Utah Valley got the bats going again. Poulsen led off the inning with a single through the infield, and two pitches later was able to steal second on a passed ball by the BYU catcher. With a runner in scoring position, junior Jake Berry stepped to the plate and delivered the first RBI of the contest. A single to right field gave Poulsen just enough time to hustle around third and slide in under the tag of the BYU catcher.
Dalke continued his nice outing on the mound in the third inning, retiring three of the four Cougars he faced. He would end up throwing a complete three innings, giving up four hits while striking out two batters.
His replacement, however, got into hot water early in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore Blake Zelaney got the ball to pitch the fourth, and promptly hit the first batter he faced. After striking out the next batter, Zelaney gave up a base hit leaving runners at first and third with one out. BYU shortstop Carson Matthews drew a walk, loading the bases again. Romeo Carrillo, a freshman from Calif., replaced Zelaney and came in to try and get the Wolverines out of trouble once more. On a 3-2 count to the first batter he faced, Carrillo got him to chase and sat him down on strikes. With two outs, he forced a ground ball to shortstop and the runner was thrown out at first, ending the inning and eliminating the threat.
The Cougars would finally strike in the fifth inning, however. After a lead-off strikeout by Hale, Cluff roped a triple down the right field line. The next batter drove him in with a single to left field, knotting the score up at 1. The score remained tied at 1-1 until the 8th inning, when BYU saw their best chance to put the game away.
After the first batter of the inning was retired on a pop up to first base, the next man reached base on a throw by senior Paul Estrada. Another pop out by the next batter put the second out on the board. The trouble was just beginning for UVU, however. With two outs, the next two Cougars were hit by pitches, forcing the bases loaded again. Cluff came to the plate, looking to add to his RBI total. As he did before, Cluff ripped the pitch down the right field line and brought all three Cougars in to score. Breaking the tie and reaching third base on the play, Cluff would come around to score himself on another UVU fielding error.
With the deficit now 5-1, the Wolverines sent the middle of the lineup to the plate in hopes to spark a late rally. After two consecutive strikeouts, Madsen poked a single up the middle to get a man on base and keep hope alive, but Poulsen would wind up getting jammed and popping out to third base, ending the game.
With the loss, the Wolverines’ record was moved to 2-9 on the season, as BYU notched their eighth victory in 11 games.
Next up for the Wolverines is a four-game weekend series with another West Coast Conference foe, St. Mary’s in Orem. The series will be the first at home for Utah Valley.
Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics