FORT WORTH, Texas The University of Utah had its back against the wall Thursday, but the Utes persevered in winning back-to-back elimination games on the third day of the Mountain West Conference Baseball Tournament.
After topping one of the top collegiate hurlers from San Diego State, 1-0, the Utes remained alive in the tourney by beating UNLV, 7-4, on Thursday afternoon.
The Utes (26-27 overall) have won more games in a single MWC Tournament this year than they have in any other year. With Thursday's wins, they are 3-1 in the championship and will play the loser of the No. 1 TCU-No. 2 New Mexico game at Lupton Stadium today at 2 p.m. (MDT).
Utah led UNLV 3-1 after four innings, but the Rebels trimmed it to 3-2 in the seventh. The Utes responded in the bottom of the seventh with three runs to take a 6-2 lead.
The Rebels tried to rally again in the eighth. They loaded the bases with one out and got the potential go-ahead run on base. But UNLV could only pick up two runs on a pair of singles, and the resulting 6-4 deficit was as close as the Rebels would get.
Utah responded in the eighth with another run to regain a 3-run lead, 7-4.
Bryn Card got the start on the hill for Utah, and he improves to 3-1 on the year with the win. Card threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts and no walks.
The Utes held the 13-11 advantage in hits. All nine Utah players took part in the hit parade, led by the two-hit efforts of Cody Guymon, Dustin Hennis, Austin Jones and Michael Beltran. Hennis led all Utah players, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Hennis was also the hero in Thursday's first game, knocking in the game's only run on an RBI single in the third inning against the Aztecs.
Ute pitcher John James went toe-to-toe with SDSU's Stephen Strasburg, and James came out on top. James struck out nine SDSU batters and only allowed four hits and four walks in pitching a complete-game shutout the first complete game of his collegiate career.
SDSU's Strasburg suffered his first lost in MWC play this season.