Another celebration for BYU baseball as it defeated Utah 4-3 in 11 innings in Salt Lake City to take a 2-0 lead in the Deseret First Duel. (Photo by BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)
SALT LAKE CITY – Brandon Kinser’s arm and Brock Whitney’s bat gave BYU baseball a leg up Tuesday night in the Deseret First Duel with an 11 inning 4-3 win over Utah.
In front of 2,249 fans at Smith’s Ballpark, Kinser struck out five Utes as he closed in relief for his second win, improving BYU's record to 9-17, while Utah fell to 9-14. Whitney went 3-for-5, with an RBI single in the first inning, a two-run double to tie the score in the eighth and most importantly a lead-off single that led to him score the winning run on a squeeze bunt in the 11th.
“A key play in the game was when Brock (Whitney) lets it roll foul in the ninth,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said of Whitney’s eye down the first base line as Cory Hunt ended up striking out with a runner on first. “That play goes unsung, but it was one of the bigger plays in the game.”
Kinser struck out the first Ute the faced with runners on second and third when he came in relief in the eighth. He intentionally walked the next Ute batter to load the bases and then struck out his second batter of the inning. Kinser got out of the jam with a full-count ground out.
“I was begging to come in,” Kinser said. “I was the one who gave up the three runs when we played them in Provo and wanted a shutout. This takes a little tension off. Now we have the edge.”
The Utes' Braden Andersen tripled to lead off the seventh and later scored on a controversial call at the plate to give Utah a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the eighth the Utes again led off with a triple and loaded the bases.
Whitney tied the game in the eighth with his two-run, two-out triple to the wall as Andersen crashed into the centerfield wall, dropping the ball from his mitt.
BYU jumped out to a manufactured 1-0 lead in the first from back-to-back singles by Dillon Robinson and Whitney to push Eric Urry across the plate. Urry got on base by getting hit by a pitch.
After safe close calls at second and first in the bottom of the first, Utah tied the score, but Kelton Caldwell threw TJ Bennett out at home to end the frame.
The Cougars turned another defensive gem to end the second when catcher Bronson Larsen pegged Biss Larsen attempting to steal third after Kody Davis struck out looking for an inning-ending double play.
“Brandon (Kinser) did a great job,” Littlewood said. “He is used to coming in during all circumstances and is our quasi-closer.
“It’s always good to beat Utah, but the bigger picture is getting our program going again. We have been scuffing a bit and this is one of those things that can get us over the hump and rolling a bit.”
Paired with the 20-3 win in Provo, BYU now leads 2-0 in the four-game Deseret Duel.
The Cougars now fly to California to start a three-game series at Saint Mary’s on Thursday afternoon.