After seven innings of offensive frustration, BYU finally broke loose.
Jackson Cluff’s two-out, bases-loaded triple snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs and pushing the Cougars to a 5-1 victory against Utah Valley on Tuesday at Miller Park.
BYU (8-3) but at least one runner on base for the first seven innings, stranding 12 before Cluff’s timely hit in the eighth.
“Probably the past four games we’ve felt a little frustrated leaving guys out there,” Cluff said. “We’ve been waiting for an inning or two to put a crooked number up there and get a base knock.”
Utah Valley (2-9) took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when a single by Jake Berry scored Kade Poulsen from second. BYU matched that single run in the fifth. Cluff smashed a lead-off triple, which was followed by Keaton Kringlen’s sharp single to right to tie the game at 1-1.
“That hit (by Kringlen) let us breathe a little bit,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “I felt like guys were tight and tense walking up to the plate. We were just a little bit nervous when guys were in scoring position.”
In the eighth, UVU’s Spenser Triplett walked two to load the bases with two outs for Cluff, who took reliever Travis Parker’s first offering to right field for his second triple of the game to score three and gave the Cougars a 4-1 lead.
Cuff said both Littlewood and associate head coach Trent Pratt told him to look fastball, and that’s just what he got from Parker.
“They told me to slow it down and look for a pitch to hit,” Cuff said. “A couple of at-bats I just wasn’t slowing things down and I was swinging at pitches outside of the zone. I was expecting a good pitch and they threw me one. It was a little chilly tonight but only when you’re not getting on base. It was more motivation to get a hit and help the team win somehow.”
After Cluff’s triple, the Wolverines had trouble with a Kinglen ground ball and Cluff scored from third for 5-1 advantage.
Cluff was 2-fo- 5 with three RBI for BYU. Kringlen and freshman shortstop Carson Matthews had two hits each.
Former Lehi standout Drew Zimmerman pitched the ninth, striking out two to close out the victory for the Cougars.
It was a bullpen night for both teams, which combined to use 12 pitchers. Reid McLaughlin, who pitched 1 ⅓ innings, earned the win for BYU. Triplett took the loss for UVU.
“It was a little nerve wracking playing that first one at home,” Littlewood said. “We started a freshman at short and a freshman at second base. Jackson (Cluff) is a sophomore and Geli (Danny Gelalich) is a sophomore in center, so we were fairly young around the field today. It was good to have them get that first one under their belt.”
It was a night where the temperature hovered around 40 degrees but the rain let up just before the opening pitch. Announced attendance was 958.
BYU opens a four-game set with the University of Milwaukee at Miller Park on Thursday. Utah Valley will host Saint Mary’s for four games beginning Thursday as well.