BYU-Utah baseball 5-18-21

BYU pitcher Carter Smith delivers a pitch in a college baseball game at Miller Park against Utah on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

BYU baseball dropped the final game of a four-game series against in-state rival Utah 11-5 at Miller Park on Tuesday.

“It’s obviously tough to overcome an early deficit,” said BYU head coach Mike Littlewood. “We made some errors early that really hurt us, but we kept fighting. I’m proud of our guys for that.”

Led by three homers — a three-run shot and two solo home runs — the Utes plated 10 runs in the first four innings to lead by double digits early.

BYU got on the board twice in the fourth to cut the Utes’ lead to 10-2. After a leadoff double by Joshua Cowden, a Peyton Cole groundout advanced him to third. Cowden scored as Freddy Achecar tripled down the right field line, and Achecar made it home on a Cooper Vest groundout.

A leadoff walk and two-straight singles by Utah scored another run in the fifth inning, giving Utah an 11-2 lead.

Andrew Pintar and Cowden both singled in the fifth as the Cougars threatened with two runners in scoring position and two outs. Achecar brought them home with a single up the middle, making it 11-4 through five.

The Cougars made it 11-5 in the seventh inning when Cowden singled again and scored on a Cole double to left center.

In the ninth, the BYU side was retired in order and Utah clinched the season series with the win.

The Cougars will host Pepperdine at Miller Park in the final series of the 2021 baseball season on Thursday-Saturday, May 20-22. Games one and two are scheduled for 6 p.m. MDT, with the Saturday afternoon finale set to begin at 1 p.m. MDT.

Lucas commits to Cougar men’s basketball

The BYU men’s basketball team just got better in the backcourt with one of the most versatile guards in the country.

On Wednesday former Illinois and Milwaukee standout Te’Jon Lucas chose the Cougars over Utah, Nevada, DePaul and New Mexico State. Lucas entered the transfer portal this month and will be have one year to play what will be a sixth year of eligibility.

“I love the success and the plan coach has for me,” Lucas told Vanquish the Foe. “I’m excited to get to work for BYU and help win a WCC championship and deep run in the tournament.”

Lucas played two years at Illinois and started 34 games for the Illini before transferring to Milwaukee. Last season, the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 39% from the field and 28% from the 3-point line.

Lucas was 21st in the country in assist rate in 2020-21.

BYU starting guard Brandon Averette – who transferred to BYU from Utah Valley last season – has decided to turn pro. Alex Barcello, who started alongside Averette and led the Cougars in scoring, hasn’t announced his intentions yet but a backcourt of Barcello and Lucas would be intriguing. Both are point guards who can score and create.

Lucas was a third team All-Horizon League selection for Milwaukee, which finished 10-12 overall and 7-10 in conference play. While Lucas has skills in ball handling and passing, his shooting numbers are low and that’s an area when BYU’s Mark Pope and his coaching staff have shown the ability to help players improve.

Lucas is a former three-star recruit originally from Milwaukee, where he starred at Washington Information Technology High School.

BYU’s Garcia Fernandez signs with Italian pro club

CIVITANOVA MARCHE, Italy — Italian professional team Associazione Sportiva Volley Lube has announced the signing of former BYU opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez.

“I’d like to thank the coaches and administration from Lube Civitanova for trusting my abilities to compete and train with them,” Garcia Fernandez said. “I’m excited to join the team and grow as a person and as a player.”

The San Juan, Puerto Rico native will take his talents to Treia, Italy, to compete in the Italian Volleyball League’s Superleagua. The Italian Superleagua has a history of pulling some of the best talent from around the world and is very competitive. Former Cougar and current Team USA member, Taylor Sander, competed with Lube in the 2017-2018 season.

Lube Civitanova is the most recent Italian Cup Champion, taking home its sixth Italian Cup on April 24. The club won the 2019 FIVB World Championships and the 2019 CEV Champions League.

“We are always looking for new talents,” said Lube’s general manager Beppe Corimo. “This time we are focusing on the best player in the American university tournament. I’m sure he’ll give us a big hand over the course of the season.”

Garcia Fernandez was named the NCAA National Player of the Year in 2020, MPSF Player of the year in 2020 and 2021 and was a four-time All-American in his time at BYU. He currently holds BYU’s single-season ace record at 56 and is second all-time in career aces. Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars to the 2021 NCAA National Championship where the team finished as national runner-up.

Former Cougars earn place on USA Volleyball

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Volleyball has released the preliminary roster for the 2021 FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League tournament, the organization announced today, and three former BYU players will compete with Team USA later this month in Rimini, Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

Current BYU player, Davide Gardini, is on the preliminary Italian roster for his major international debut. Former BYU player and coach Luka Slabe will represent as assistant coach for Team USA women’s team.

2016 Olympian, outside hitter Taylor Sander (BYU 2011-14) was named team captain of Team USA. Opposite hitter Ben Patch (BYU 2013,16-17) who competed on the 2019 VNL Finals squad, is also back on the roster. Rounding out the Cougar representation is outside hitter Brenden Sander (BYU 2015-18), brother to Taylor, who competed on the 2019 VNL preliminary team.

This will be the only 2021 international competition for USA Volleyball leading up to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Team USA is looking to medal for the third time in a row after taking silver in 2019, and bronze in 2018.

This is Gardini’s first international appearance on a senior national team roster. Gardini formerly competed with Italy’s U21 2019 World Championship team, where the team took second place to Iran. He was also featured on Italy’s U19 team in the 2017 European Championship where Italy earned the silver medal, and Gardini was named best outside hitter. Most recently at BYU, Gardini was named to the All-America first team and finished with the Cougars as national runners-up in the May 8 NCAA Championship. He will be returning with the Cougars in 2022 for his senior season.

On the USA women’s VNL roster is assistant coach Luka Slabe. Slabe competed with the Cougars from 2000-03 and was an assistant coach for the BYU men’s team from 2016-18. Slabe and the rest of the squad will be looking to defend their 2019 VNL gold.

The men’s VNL competition will begin May 28, with the championship taking place June 27. The women’s tournament will begin May 25. Each match will take place in a controlled environment to protect the players, with no fans allowed to attend. Games will be available in the United States on the FIVB’s streaming service, Volleyball World TV.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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