PROVO - Utah Valley University watched opportunities to take the lead against No. 26 ranked BYU disappear in the seventh and eighth innings, until Justin Erlandson took matters into his own hands.
He hit a solo home run in the top of the 11th and UVU used a clutch RBI single from Zac Willis to help the Wolverines rally for a 7-6 win over BYU on Tuesday night.
“Our guys have taken a lot of pride in their defense, and how much better can you play, defensively? In that last inning, there were three balls they hit off the bat that I thought would be hits,” said UVU coach Eric Madsen. “I think our guys showed a lot of toughness and that’s one of the things I’ve been most proud of.”
After UVU took the lead, it turned to its pitching and defense to close out the win. BYU responded with a leadoff single from Brennon Lund, and Hayden Nielsen reached base on an error. Keaton Kringlen then flew out to right field on a ball that was deep enough for Lund to tag up and reach third.
Colton Shaver then hit a bloop to shallow right field that looked like it would drop, but UVU second baseman Trevor Howell, made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch that saved the game.
UVU reliever Jake Mayer, who pitched the final three innings, then got Eric Urry hit a pop up. Mayer caught the ball to end the game.
“Tip your hat to Utah Valley. They were down a couple of runs late in the game and they got key hits and made the plays,” said BYU coach Mike Littlewood. “I think we gave away a lot of at-bats tonight. I don’t feel like we had a great offensive approach, but again, they made key pitches and just flat-out beat us.”
BYU took a 4-2 lead to the top of the seventh, but the Wolverines got a leadoff double from Spencer Gothberg. BYU reliever Bo Burrup then walked Paul Estrada and Erlandson to load the bases.
The Cougars called on Keaton Cenatiempo to put out the fire. He got Jordan Schlehuber to hit a slow ground ball to Daniel Schneemann, at third. He looked home but wisely decided to throw out Schlehuber at first while a run scored.
Cenatiempo then got Howell to pop up to first and closed out the inning with a strikeout.
BYU rode that momentum for a run in the bottom half of the inning when Nielsen walked and scored when Kringlen doubled off the wall to make the score 5-3.
UVU bounced back in the eighth to put the pressure on. Greyson Bogden singled to lead off the inning. After Cenatiempo struck out Mark Kruger, Craig Brinkerhoff doubled in Bogden. Brinkerhoff then tried to take third on a ball in the dirt that Shaver blocked. Shaver tracked down the ball and fired a strike to third that was in time to retired Brinkerhoff.
It was a huge play since Gothberg promptly singled. Cenatiempo then closed out the inning when he got Estrada to ground out.
The Wolverines trailed 5-4 in the top of the ninth but tied the game off BYU reliever Mason Marshall. He gave up a single to Erlandson, who promptly stole second. After Marshall got Schlehuber to fly out, he gave up a bloop single to Howell. Zac Willis then hit a sharp ground ball to Nielsen at shortstop, who tossed it to Brennon Anderson at second, but Anderson’s throw to first went was wide at first, allowing the tying run to score.
Nielsen, who was making his 200th career start, got BYU going early when he tripled to right-center with one out. Kringlen then walked.
Shaver had to settle for a sacrifice fly when he drove a ball to right field that was headed for the gap before Kruger made a diving catch.
UVU answered with two runs in the third inning. With one out Schlehuber singled and Howell doubled to left. Willis followed with a single to left that tied the game. Bogden drove in a run on a fielder’s choice.
BYU had the answer in the bottom of the third. Brennon Lund drew a walk with one out. He stole second and came home on a single from Nielsen. Kringlen and Shaver followed the back-to-back singles to load the bases.
Urry then crushed a ball that took Erlandson to the warning track in center field. He made a running catch for the second out of the inning but in the process, Lund tagged up from third and scored. The Cougars scored another run on a balk that gave them a 4-2 lead.
BYU and UVU have now split their two games this season and will play again on Tuesday, May 10 at UVU.
UVU is now 2-0 against ranked teams this year will now play at Sacramento State on Friday. BYU, ranked No. 26, will open a series at Pepperdine on Thursday.