For six innings, BYU and Utah were locked in a grueling pitchers' duel.

Then came the top of the seventh inning.

In that frame, the Cougars erupted for five runs to break open a 1-0 game and ended up battering the Utes 15-2 at Franklin Covey Field Friday night.

And with that victory, BYU claimed the inaugural Deseret First Duel championship, emblematic of overall rivalry supremacy between the two schools for the 2007-08 sports year.

"I'm glad it's over and done with," said Cougar coach Vance Law of the Deseret First Duel. "I'm happy to get that for our athletic department."

Meanwhile, BYU's win sets up an intriguing matchup today when the two teams meet to close out the series and the regular season, with seeding for next week's Mountain West Conference Tournament in Fort Worth, Tex., on the line.

Utah (23-25 overall) is 10-13 in MWC play, followed by BYU (21-34 overall) at 9-14. The Utes and Cougars are battling for the fourth seed in the tournament.

BYU starter Blake Torgerson threw eight strong innings Friday, giving up nine hits and no earned runs while fanning three Ute batters. He improved to 6-4 on the season.

"He pitched very well. He had command of the strike zone," Law said. "I'm very happy for him. It was one of the better-pitched games of the year."

"Blake pitched lights out for us today," said BYU designated hitter Brandon Relf.

The way Utah coach Bill Kinneberg saw it, the Utes squandered opportunities to score during the first six innings before the Cougars' offensive explosion.

"We weren't aggressive enough early on," Kinneberg said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't get it done."

BYU, clinging to a 1-0 lead, opened the seventh with a home run by Steve Parker, whose blast cleared the wall in left-centerfield. Later, Sean McNaughton belted a two-run double that opened the floodgates.

"That broke our back," Kinneberg said of McNaughton's double. "Give BYU credit. They capitalized and put a dagger in us."

Dan Vargas' two-run homer in the seventh staked Torgerson to a comfortable 6-0 advantage. But the Cougars weren't done, plating eight more runs in their half of the ninth for good measure.

BYU scored 14 of its 15 runs after the sixth inning. In fact, 16 of the 17 runs scored in the game came after the sixth, including a pair of runs by Utah in the eighth, highlighted by Dustin Hennis' RBI single.

The Cougars banged out 19 hits, including a 5-for-5 performance by second baseman Andrew Law, son of Vance Law.

"That was very gratifying to see that as a dad," Vance Law said. "His hits were meaningful ones that got things going."

Vargas and Kasey Ko contributed three hits apiece for the Cougars. Both teams have their sights set on winning this three-game series today. Utah defeated BYU Thursday, 5-3.

"We start over tomorrow," Kinneberg said Friday. "It's a new day. We can still win this series."

"We'll be ready to go," Vance Law said. "Hopefully this performance will spur us on tomorrow and for the rest of the season."


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com