Whenever Utah and BYU meet on the baseball diamond, you can be sure of a couple of things.
One, the final tally will always look more like a football score than a baseball score.And, two, whenever they play at Franklin Quest Field, bet on Utah.
For the eighth time in 10 meetings at the four-year-old park, the Utes came out on top, rolling to a 16-7 victory Thursday afternoon, thanks to a pair of touchdowns and a safety.
Actually, the Utes pounded out 22 hits and got a great relief performance from seldom-used pitcher Gary Thorton to capture the first of a three-game series.
Afterward, Utah coach Tim Esmay wasn't as delighted with the Utes' apparent domination of BYU at Franklin Quest as he was that his team had won, period.
"It's just fun to get a win - I'll take anything," he said. "It's been a rough go this year."
After winning the Western Athletic Conference North Division last year and qualifying for the WAC playoffs, the Utes have struggled all season. They went into Thursday's contest just 6-18 in WAC play and 16-30 overall. But of those 30 losses, eight were by just one run and eight came by two runs.
Two of the one-run losses came earlier in the month against BYU in Provo (19-18 and 12-11) and two came last week against division-leading Grand Canyon. Turn those games around and the Utes would be in first place in the division instead of last.
In Thursday's game, the Ute bats were hot right from the start as they exploded for six runs in the first inning and four in the second to go up 10-1.
Sophomore center fielder Sam Swenson, who went 5-for-6 on the day, started things off with a home run and the first six batters reached first off Cougar starter Marc Kenner. When the first three Utes got hits in the second inning, Kenner was relieved by Matt Rex.
The Cougars stayed close thanks to a barrage of homers, including three in the third by Troy Farnsworth, Brad Winget and Will Waldrip, who also homered in the second.
When BYU cut the lead to 10-7 in the top of the fifth to chase Ute starter Lance Ericksen, Thorton came in to pitch three innings and allowing just one hit.
"Thorton was the difference," said Esmay. "He came in and shut them down."
BYU coach Gary Pullins agreed, saying, "Thorton came in and the game was over."
While giving credit to Thorton, Pullins also was very critical of his own team's play, particularly over the final four innings when they didn't score and gave up six runs.
"The last four innings were as terrible as we've played all season," he said. "We did absolutely nothing. We didn't hit, didn't pitch and we didn't play defense. It was very typical of what this ballclub has done all season, and I can't explain why.
"It's not the ballplark. Utah plays very well here. We couldn't have beat them in our ballpark or anywhere today."
Utah picked up two runs in the fifth, three in the sixth and another in the seventh. Chad Truby, Nate Forbush, John Summers and Eric Wall-ace each had three hits for the Utes.
With the loss, BYU fell to 11-14 in WAC play and 27-21 overall.
After Friday afternoon's game, the Utes and Cougars will conclude the series with a Saturday game at noon at Franklin Quest.