I knew I got it. I’m not one to celebrate but I mean, that was cool. I knew I got it so I was just enjoying it after that. —Wade Gulden
SALT LAKE CITY — It was quite the battle at the end of Utah’s 6-5 win over USC Monday night. With two outs and a man on second and the Utes trailing 5-4, it all came to down to Wade Gulden. The junior left fielder fought through an 11-pitch final at-bat before crushing the final pitch of the game over the right field wall for a walk-off home run.
“I was just trying to get my pitch,” said Gulden, who went 3 for 4 in the victory. “Not thinking home run by any means, but get something in play to give us a shot.”
Fouling off several balls with a full count, Gulden knew that the final pitch of that long at-bat was as good as gone as soon as it left his bat, as he pumped his fist and took off his helmet before he even rounded first base.
“I knew I got it. I’m not one to celebrate but I mean, that was cool,” said Gulden. “I knew I got it so I was just enjoying it after that.
The Utes struck first in the game by crossing the plate three times in the second inning. The first score came on a RBI double by Gulden to bring Zach Moeller home. Josh Rose blasted a shot to right-center field for a solo home run on the next at-bat. The bleeding would continue for USC when Dallas Carroll plated Max Schuman with the bases loaded to take a 3-0 lead.
USC got on the scoreboard its next time up when Frankie Rios doubled to score Lars Nootbaar. The Utes countered in the bottom of the third with a run by Gulden off a single by Ellis Kelly to make it 4-1 Utes.
The top of the fourth inning was not so kind to the Utes. Nootbaar cut the Utah lead to one with a two-run triple in the fourth. Brandon Perez immediately followed by smashing a two-run homer to give the Trojans a 5-4 advantage.
After five scoreless innings, the score remained the same at 5-4 after pitcher Dylan Drachler came in to relieve Josh Lapiana. Drachler hurled four scoreless innings to keep the game within striking distance for the Utes.
“That was awesome,” said head coach Bill Kinneburg. “He gave us three really big innings, three and a half really big innings.”
With the heart of the Utes’ lineup due up in the bottom of the ninth, the comeback was set in motion. It began when leadoff man Carroll singled to right. Then, Hunter Simmons laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Carroll into scoring position. After Moeller struck out, the stage was set for Gulden’s game-ending heroics.
“There was no communication,” said Kinneburg when asked what he was relaying to Gulden during the final at-bat. “He was just having a good at-bat, kept fouling pitches off and got the pitch that he needed.”
The Utes' dramatic victory capped a three-game series sweep of the Trojans. For Utah, which is trying to compete for an at-large bid in the NCAA Regionals, this was a huge win.
“If we can finish this out the way we want to we can go on a big run,” said Gulden.
The Utes (24-21, 12-12) begin a three-game series on the road against UCLA on May 19.