SALT LAKE CITY — It took an extra inning and a walk-off single by Utah’s TJ Bennett to put an end to Tuesday’s rivalry game with BYU at Spring Mobile Ballpark. The Utes prevailed 5-4 in a contest featuring ninth-inning heroics by both teams.
“A great college baseball game,” said Utah coach Bill Kinneberg. “I’m really proud of our guys to come back the way they did and tie it, then win it in the 10th.”
Bennett’s game-winning hit capped a comeback from a 4-1 deficit over the final two innings. The first baseman said he was just looking for a pitch to drive.
Bennett found it and the ball dropped safely into center field, scoring Dallas Carroll from third to end the seesaw affair between the Utes (12-10) and Cougars (11-13).
“You’re not going to expect anything less than that, I don’t think. BYU battled the whole night. Our pitching threw well,” Bennett said. “It was a BYU-Utah game. That’s what you’re going to get every time.”
As for the outcome, Bennett added: “It ended the way we like.”
Utah has now won three straight games, adding the victory to a pair of favorable results at Stanford.
BYU, meanwhile, entered the contest after taking two of three from Kansas. The Cougars lost this one, however, despite having saves leader James Lengal on the mound down the stretch.
BYU coach Mike Littlewood said he knew the Utes weren’t going to roll over despite being down 4-1.
“With a three-run lead, 99 times out of 100 when we send James out there he’s going to get it done,” Littlewood said. “You can’t give good teams chances like that and they made us pay tonight.”
A dramatic nine inning left the score knotted at 4-4.
Utah entered the frame with a 1-0 lead — scoring on an RBI single by Hunt in the fifth — before BYU responded with a four-run outburst.
Kelton Caldwell got things started with a lead-off homer to right field. Later in the inning, Brock Whitney put the Cougars ahead by driving in a run on a fielder’s choice. Adam Law then followed with a two-run triple to make it 4-1.
Utah battled back in the bottom of the ninth. The Utes chipped away at the deficit by scoring on a single from Wyler Smith and on a wild pitch that allowed Cody Scaggari to cross the plate. Hunt capped the comeback with a two-out RBI triple to even things up.
I just happened to be up at the right time. That was a great team effort. The pitchers pitched a heckuva game tonight,” said Hunt, who was 4 for 4 from the plate. “Everyone wanted to win that game and it showed. We weren’t just going to roll over there in the ninth. We were going to do everything we could to win that one.”
Utah pitchers Trey Nielsen, Chase Rezac, Luke West, Nick Green and Josh Chapman combined to allow just five hits. BYU’s pitchers wound up scattering 10.
“That was a real good baseball game, particularly for a Tuesday night — maybe too much for a Tuesday night,” Kinneberg said. “But hat’s off to them. They played great, too.”
This is the first of four meetings between the Cougars and Utah this season. They’ll meet again April 9 and 23 in Provo and May 7 in Salt Lake City.
Both teams resume league play Thursday. BYU opens a three-game series with West Coast Conference foe Pepperdine, while Utah heads to Arizona for three Pac-12 contests.
GAME NOTES: Bennett also had a walk-off single in the Utes’ 3-2 win over Utah Valley in 11 innings a week earlier. ... The Cougars, who are ranked No. 1 in the nation in double plays, had three in the game. ... BYU’s Law extended his hit streak to eight games. Utah’s Carroll singled in the first to reach safely for the seventh consecutive outing. ... The attendance was 1,268.