OREM, Utah -- Utah Valley University will play for its third straight Great West Conference Tournament championship after beating North Dakota, 15-4, on Thursday night at Brent Brown Ballpark.
The Wolverines (46-12) have Friday off and get two chances to win one game on Saturday. First pitch for the championship is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. MT.
Jake Rickenbach went 4-for-5 with four RBIs, and Goose Kallunki hit his 18th home run – a three-run shot – and drove in five runs, adding to his nation-leading RBI total with 86 on the year.
Preston Olson lasted into the sixth inning to keep his record perfect, at 8-0 on the year and 11-0 in his career. Olson and two other pitchers, Craig Brimhall and Jeff Barto, combined to strike out 10 hitters.
“I’m extremely proud of this club. We’ve continued to win under a lot of pressure, both during the streak and after,” said head coach Eric Madsen. “It’s satisfying to be where we are right now. We have Saturday’s game and that’s all we can control. I expect us to come out play the same way, with the same intensity, that we have all year."
After a sacrifice fly spotted the Wolverines a 1-0 lead in the second, the team pushed across four runs in the fourth to take a 5-0 lead. An Alex Exon single put runners at first and third with one away, and an Exon stolen bases put two in scoring position for Willie Pratt, who singled home both runs to make it 3-0.
Rickenbach had a base hit that plated Cole Butcher before Kallunki bounced one through the middle to score Rickenbach for the fifth run.
North Dakota got one back on a base hit by Kris Kwak before another four-run frame gave Utah Valley a 9-1 lead.
In the four-run sixth, Rickenbach delivered another RBI single, Kallunki had a sac-fly and Billy Burgess singled home two more runs on a base hit to right center.
The Fighting Sioux got a triple from Sam Alt to get one back, but three more in the top of the seventh gave UVU a 12-2 lead. Rickenbach drove in two more with a double in the inning.
North Dakota (19-36) was able to extend the game with two in the seventh, avoiding the 10-run rule.
Kallunki delivered the final three runs in the top of the ninth, with an opposite field home run, leaving him one shy of Utah Valley’s career record.
Burgess had a pair of hits and two RBIs, while Zack Trygstad led North Dakota with three hits.
Northern Colorado and Houston Baptist will play Friday at 2:30 p.m. with the winner meeting North Dakota after. The winner of that final game will advance to Saturday's final.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
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