We talk about being cliché, but it always comes down to the last at-bat. I’ll bet you 90 percent of these games come down to the last at-bat or the last inning to determine a winner. —BYU coach Mike Littlewood
PROVO — It just wouldn’t be a BYU-Utah game without a little drama and some wild moments.
The Cougars scored four runs in the second inning and seemed to be in command, leading 6-2 Tuesday night at Larry H. Miller Field.
But you can probably guess what happened next — the Utes rallied, tying the game with a four-run inning of their own in the ninth, sending the contest into extra innings with the score knotted at 6-6.
The contest ended in the bottom of the 10th when BYU pinch runner Cam Richins scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch by Utah reliever Trenton Stoltz, propelling the Cougars to a 7-6 victory.
Nothing new in this rivalry. Last year, BYU played a five-hour, 13-inning game in Provo that also ended by the score of 7-6.
“The four-run lead felt like a one-run lead. It really did,” said BYU coach Mike Littlewood. “We talk about being cliché, but it always comes down to the last at-bat. I’ll bet you 90 percent of these games come down to the last at-bat or the last inning to determine a winner.”
BYU's Keaton Kringlen, who’s battling a hamstring injury, led off the 10th with an infield single. Richins pinch-ran for Kringlen, and he reached second on a sacrifice bunt by Favero. Jake Brown, who was pinch-hitting for Kyle Dean, drew a walk that culminated with Stoltz’s game-ending wild pitch, scoring Richins.
“That’s his role. Cam doesn’t complain that he’s not playing,” Littlewood said of Richins. “He knows that he’s the fastest guy on our team. You saw it tonight. That’s why he’s on our team. He can help us win games like that.”
For the Cougars, the victory eased some of the pain of being swept by Loyola Marymount last weekend.
But the agony continued momentarily for BYU Tuesday night.
In the ninth inning, the Utes loaded the bases against Cougar reliever Jake Suddreth, who hit Oliver Dunn with a pitch to score Davis Delorefice to cut the deficit to 6-3. Then Matt Richardson’s RBI single made it 6-4. Rykker Tom followed with a two-run single to tie the game at 6-6.
“It was a devastating weekend last weekend and a devastating inning,” Littlewood said. “I wasn’t really pleased with how Jake came out. He was complacent with a four-run lead instead of being a closer for us. It was my fault for not leaving Drew Zimmerman in. He was lights out. We would have been out of here a long time ago if I would have left Drew in.”
"It was good that we put that four-spot up," said Utah coach Bill Kinneberg. "But we had chances to win. We didn't play especially great all game so that was a bright spot for us ... We had our chances and didn't get it done."
With the win, BYU improved to 10-9 — halting a three-game losing streak — while Utah dropped to 2-17.
“These are big games for us,” Littlewood said. “We don’t shy away from talking about the rivalry. If you say this is just another game, then you’re trying to fool yourself. We all know this is a huge game.”
Despite giving up the four-run lead, Suddreth (2-1) earned the victory while Stoltz was tagged with the loss (0-1).
The Cougars got on top of the Utes early, starting with Kringlen’s leadoff double followed by a single by Nate Favero in the second inning. Dean then hit a fly to deep center to score Kringlen to give the Cougars a 1-0 advantage.
After David Clawson singled, No. 9 hitter Jarrett Perns belted a two-run triple, scoring Clawson and Favero, to make it 3-0.
That triple chased Ute starter Jacob Rebar, who was replaced by Justin Kelly. Brennon Anderson’s RBI ground-out plated Perns to give the Cougars a 4-0 advantage.
Utah responded in the third inning with two runs, highlighted by Tom’s first career home run. The solo shot by the freshman from Cedar City cleared the scoreboard in left field.
In the fifth inning, Brian Hsu singled, then Brock Hale doubled off the wall. Hsu scored on Kringlen’s sacrifice fly. BYU led 5-2 through five frames.
Hale and Perns made outstanding defensive plays, tracking down long fly balls in right field and center field, respectively, robbing the Utes of potential extra base hits in the seventh inning.
In the Cougars’ half of the seventh, another Kringlen sacrifice fly scored Daniel Schneemann, staking BYU to a 6-2 lead.
That’s when the zaniness ensued.
BYU returns to West Coast Conference play when it hosts a three-game series against Gonzaga starting Thursday.
Utah entertains Sacramento State for a three-game series that begins Friday.