BYU defeats Utah 5-4, takes home Deseret First Duel in baseball

BYU baseball celebrates winning the fifth Deseret Duel Trophy in six years after beating Utah, 5-4. (Photo by BYU Photo/Jonathan Hardy)

PROVO, Utah - Hayden Nielsen hit a clutch RBI in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift BYU to a 5-4 win over Utah and a Deseret First Duel victory in baseball Tuesday night.

Relief pitcher Matt Milke recorded the victory for BYU (27-19) getting the final three outs, including striking out Ute batter Cory Hunt to seal the win at Larry H. Miller Field. Utah (17-29) scored four runs on 11 hits in the loss.

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With the victory the Cougars earned three points to tie Utah in the overall Deseret First Duel standings at 25 points apiece, the first time in history that the duel has ended in a tie.

"It’s always nice to beat Utah, nice rivalry," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said after his team won the baseball portion of the Deseret Duel. "It brings out the fans. When the game is over the competitiveness is over until the next time."

After a scoreless seventh inning, Kelton Caldwell doubled down the left field line in the bottom of the eighth. Bret Lopez hit a deep fly ball to the right field warning track, allowing Caldwell to tag up and advance to third. With one out and runners on first and third, Nielsen hit a grounder to shortstop, beating out the double play at first. Caldwell scored on the play to give the Cougars the 5-4 lead.

"With our team it doesn’t really matter to our mindset if we get down a little bit," Littlewood said. "We almost expect that big hit, we expect each guy to go up like Hayden (Nielsen). He didn’t hit a gapper, but he did enough to get the run in by legging out a ground ball. He is such a consistent player, not flashy, it’s a 'you’re not going to beat me attitude.'"

Looking to rally with two outs in the top of the ninth, Utah batter Nielsen doubled down the line, before BYU pitcher Milke walked the next two batters. With the bases loaded, Milke struck out TJ Bennett to preserve the 5-4 victory for the Cougars.

“That was not how I expected it to go,” Milke said. “I love it when [the fans] all stood up and started cheering. It was awesome. It was nuts. The fans went crazy. It is the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. I was so pumped.”

Cougars Jacob Hannemann and Caldwell both went 2 for 4 in the victory, with Hannemann recording two RBI and Caldwell adding one of his own. BYU starting pitcher Mark Anderson allowed four runs on nine hits through 5.2 innings of play.

Utah got on the scoreboard first in the top of the second inning. With one out, designated hitter Bret Helton got the first hit of his collegiate career driving a double to left field. He scored the Utes only run of the inning after an errant throw from BYU shortstop Nielsen allowing Ute batter Wyler Smith to reach base.

Leading off for the Cougars in the bottom of the third, Dakota Hernandez jump-started the BYU bats, singling to left field and advancing to second on a fielding error. With one out, Hannemann hit a RBI single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw. The Cougars next batter, Brennon Anderson singled down the left field line, scoring Hannemann easily to give the Cougars the 2-1 advantage.

Utah added two more runs in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Smith hit a line drive RBI single just under Anderson’s glove scoring Konnor Armijo from second. Utah’s next batter, Cody Scaggari singled up the middle scoring another run to up the Utes lead to 3-2. 

The score remained 3-2 in favor of Utah, before both teams added runs in the sixth inning.

With one out and runners on second and third, Scaggari added his second RBI of the night with a bouncing ball that jumped over Adam Law into the outfield to up Utah’s lead to 4-2. Pitcher Derek Speigner came into replace Mark Anderson through 5.2 innings of play.

Leading off for the Cougars in the bottom of the sixth, Jaycob Brugman doubled to center field to end starting pitcher Chase Rezac’s night. Caldwell singled to right field with one out driving in Brugman narrowing the deficit, 4-3. With two outs and the bases loaded, Hannemann walked to bring in the tying run, the score remained tied at four apiece through six innings.

Coming into tonight’s matchup Utah led 25-22 in the Deseret First Duel points standing, but BYU picked up the final three points of the year with the baseball victory. Utah took points with victories in football, women’s soccer, swimming, gymnastics and women’s tennis, while the Cougars scored points with wins in women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s tennis, softball and baseball. This marks the first time in Deseret Duel history that the contest has ended in a tie since the duel began in 2007-08.

Utah ended up winning the tiebreaker based on its win over the Cougars in football. BYU has won four of the six Deseret Duels, with Utah winning in 2008-09 and this year.

The Cougars return to action with a three-game series against West Coast Conference foe Saint Mary’s beginning Thursday night. With two victories against Saint Mary’s, BYU can secure a berth in the West Coast Conference tournament. The games will be live on BYUtv with the opening pitch Thursday and Friday set for 6 p.m. MDT, and 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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