Mitch Moralez went a 4-for-5 with five RBIs to help lead Utah Valley to a 14-5 victory over Seattle U in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday afternoon at Bannerwood Park. With the win and a Northern Colorado loss on the day, UVU has officially punched its ticket to next week’s 2021 WAC Baseball Tournament as the Wolverines will enter the tournament as the No. 6 seed and open play on Wednesday afternoon against the third-seeded UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros.
Moralez belted out a three-run homer in the sixth and also drove in two more runs in the second on his way to helping UVU (10-45, 8-28 WAC) secure a spot into next week’s WAC Tournament. He also scored four runs and finished just a triple shy of the cycle. As a team, UVU scored a season-high 14 runs on 11 hits on the day. Garrett Broussard and Jeff Arens also recorded multiple-hit outings for the Wolverines.
“I’m happy for the guys and for our program. This team truly deserves to head to the WAC Tournament and I’m very proud of them,” interim head coach David Carter said. “We showed a lot of fight in this series and things finally went our way this afternoon. We needed some big hits and Mitch and a couple of other guys delivered those for us today.”
UVU got off to a strong start with two runs in the first and three more in the second to jump out to a quick 5-0 advantage. Moralez started things off with a leadoff single in the first and Broussard promptly followed with a double to right center to put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Kade Poulsen then plated Moralez with an RBI groundout and Brandon Luna followed with an RBI single to center to make it 2-0.
Drew Sims then led off the second with a walk and Mick Madsen followed with a single to put two runners aboard for the Wolverines for the second straight inning. Moralez then delivered the big hit with a two-run double to left center to drive them both home and make it 4-0. Moralez later moved over to third on a wild pitch and came in to score when Poulsen reached on a dropped popup to make it 5-0.
With UVU starter Nick Sims putting up zeros into the fourth, Seattle (16-31, 10-21 WAC) then got on the scoreboard for the first time following back-to-back hits in the last of the fourth to make it 5-1.
The Redhawks then loaded the bases with one away in the fifth and managed to drive in a pair of runs to cut the score to two at 5-3. Shane Jamison plated both runs with a two-run single. With SU threatening for more in the frame, Blake Zeleny came on in relief and managed to strikeout Kai Alberghini to strand a pair of runners and send it to the sixth.
With Madsen and Tavyn Lords on base for the Wolverines in the sixth, Moralez came through with a clutch three-run bomb to left to extend UVU’s lead to 8-3. Moralez’ three-run home run marked his fourth big fly of the season.
SU again loaded the bases in the last of the seventh and managed to push across a run to make it 8-4. But the UVU offense wasn’t done as it added four insurance runs in the eighth to extend its lead to 12-4. After loading the bases, Broussard started the scoring in the frame with an RBI single to bring in pinch runner Connor Hall. Poulsen then followed by reaching on an error to record and RBI and have two runs come home on the play while Brandon Luna capped the scoring in the inning with a sacrifice fly.
The Redhawks added a run in the last of the eighth, but UVU responded with two more insurance runs in the ninth thanks to RBIs from Trey Newman and Lords to put the game away.
UVU starter Nick Sims pitched well for the Wolverines on the day by allowing just three runs over 4.2 innings. Zeleny earned the win in relief for UVU after giving up just one run over 2.0 innings of work to improve to 1-0 on the year. The senior Triplett then came on to earn his fifth save after throwing the final 2.1 innings. SU starter Nestor German was tagged with the loss to drop to 4-5.
Moralez, the senior Poulsen and Luna all drove in multiple runs on the afternoon while Madsen scored three runs for the Wolverines. Mason Hoover paced SU by going 3-for-4 while Jamison went 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
UVU got a little help on the day from in-state foe Dixie State, as the Trailblazers managed to come from behind to top Northern Colorado by a score of 9-6 and help the Wolverines get into the WAC Tournament. Dixie State ended up sweeping the Bears to help UVU secure the 2021 WAC Tournament appearance.
The 2021 WAC Baseball Tournament will run Wednesday to Sunday at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona. GCU, who earned a share of the WAC regular season title, will enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed. Sacramento State is seeded second, UTRGV third, New Mexico State fourth and Seattle U fifth. UVU and UTRGV will open the tournament at 3 p.m. MDT on Wednesday.