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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
BYU’s Danny Gelalich, left, celebrates at the plate after he blasted a grand slam in the eighth inning breaking a 2-2 tie during the Utah vs. BYU baseball game at Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — Danny Gelalich picked an opportune time — at least as far as 24th-ranked BYU is concerned — to hit his first career homer. The sophomore outfielder, who batted ninth in the order, belted a grand slam in the eighth inning to lift the Cougars to a 10-3 victory over Utah Tuesday night at Smith’s Ballpark.

“I was battling. The guy was coming at me with fast balls and so I figured he would try to sneak another one in there and I was lucky enough to square it up,” Gelalich said. “I didn’t think it was going to quite get out.”

Gelalich joked that the ball traveled 316 feet, just enough to clear the right-field fence marked 315 feet.

“I was hoping. I was praying for sure,” Gelalich added. “I was trying to blow it fair.”

BYU’s victory snapped a five-game losing streak to Utah (dating back to March of 2018) and avenged an 8-6 setback to the Utes in the season’s only other meeting on April 2.

BYU coach Mike Littlewood acknowledged the meetings with Utah were two of the biggest games the Cougars played this season.

“It’s so important for so many reasons,” he said. “So it was great to get this win.”

The Cougars improved to 34-14 on the season, while the reeling Utes dropped their 11th straight game and fell to 12-32 overall.

“I think there’s a lot of respect between us and the Utes. We know that it’s going to be a good game no matter what,” Gelalich said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of season we’re having or what kind of season they’re having. We know it’s going to be a good game and we know it’s one that they want to win and, of course, we want to win it, too.”

Utah took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh on back-to-back doubles by Zack Moeller and Shea Kramer. The latter produced the game’s first run since the Utes scored on a sacrifice fly by Oliver Dunn in the second inning. BYU’s Brock Hale put the Cougars ahead 1-0 with an RBI double in the first.

Pitchers Jacob Rebar, Austin Moore and Zac McCleve scatted just five hits as Utah kept BYU in check through the first seven innings. That changed in the eighth when Jackson Cluff drew a walk and Mitch McIntyre was hit by a pitch. Cluff went on to score on a one-out single by Casey Jacobsen to even the score at 2-2. The Utes then hit another batter (Bryan Call) to load the bases and set the scene for Gelalich’s decisive home run just inside of the right-field pole.

“That’s kind of been our team this year. Different guys step up every single night,” Littlewood said. “The bottom part of our lineup was really good tonight and when the bottom half of our lineup swings it, we’re pretty tough to beat.”

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Trailing 6-2, Utah countered once in the bottom of the eighth when Dunn drove in another run. BYU, though, responded with a couple of more shots over the fence —leading off the ninth with a solo homer by Hale and later adding two-run blast by McIntyre.

Gelalich had the last say, however, producing the rivalry game’s final run with an RBI single.

Both teams return to conference action later this week.

BYU begins a three-game series at Santa Clara on Thursday. The Cougars open West Coast Conference Tournament play May 23 in Stockton, California.

Utah, meanwhile, closes out its season with six home games. The Utes face Pac-12 foe Washington State on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They wrap things up May 23-25 against UC Davis.