Six-run lead evaporates in 12-10 loss to Utah

Bret Lopez started for the first time this season at first base, while Brock Whitney started at third in an attempt to get more hitting power in what ended up as a 12-10 loss vs. Utah. (Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah -- In a good old donnybrook, the annual Deseret First Duel series will need the fourth game to decide a winner as BYU baseball gave up a six-run lead against Utah, falling 12-10 Tuesday at Larry H. Miller Field.
 
The Cougars (18-28) gave up that lead after having a 9-3 advantage after six innings.
 
"It's unfortunate you give guys chances in the perfect situation with a lead and they just can't get it done," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "For me, the rest of the seven games are basically tryouts for me figuring out who can go in and play next year and some guys are proving they can and some guys are proving they can't."
 
The seniors sparked the BYU offense as Kelton Caldwell batted a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI while  Brock Whitney hit 3-for-5 with a solo home run, starting at third base for the first time this season. Bret Lopez, who started at first base, added three RBI on a 3-for-5 night, including a triple. Cougar pitcher Hayden Rogers got the no-decision, allowing four hits and no earned runs with three strikeouts in his five innings of work. The win went to Ute reliever Josh Chapman (3-0) while Brandon Kinser (3-3) was tagged with the loss.
 
In the top of the seventh, Utah (14-28) opened the scoring spigot. Shortly after scoring on a groundout to make the score 9-4, Utah drew a walk to load the bases. The Utes' Connor Armijo then blasted a 3-2 pitch over the left field fence for the grand slam, cutting the Cougar lead to 9-8.
 
Utah kept the runs flowing in the top of the eighth. Utah's Kody Davis singled to left field for the game-tying RBI, knotting the score at 9-9. 
 
After Utah put runners on the corners, BYU brought in Kolton Mahoney to get the team out of the jam. The sophomore walked the first batter he faced to load the bases and walked the next batter to score the go-ahead run. Armijo followed his grand slam with two more RBI on a single, extending the lead to 12-9.
 
"Bret (Lopez) got a big hit for us," Littlewood said. "I think overall Brock's (Whitney) a guy you can move anywhere and he gets it done. We need more consistent at-bats from every guy. Brock gave us four consistent at-bats tonight and he's the only guy that did."
 
Whitney led off the bottom of the seventh frame, belting a 1-0 pitch for a solo shot off the scoreboard, closing the gap 12-10 in favor of the Utes. Caldwell then reached base with the walk, bringing the tying run to the plate with no outs, but was stranded in the inning.
 
In the ninth, the Cougars attempted the comeback, but after Brennon Lund's single the game ended on a groundout double play.
 
In a game with a 30-minute rain shower, the outcome looked to be going in favor of the Cougars. BYU had a steady drizzle of two runs in each of the first four innings. 
 
The Utes drew blood first in the first inning as Davis scored on a  Cougar throwing error.
 
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Urry singled to third base before Whitney reached on a fielding error by the Utah third baseman. Caldwell then singled with a hit to shallow right, driving in Eric Urry. Lopez added another run with his RBI-single to left field to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
 
BYU began the second frame hitting three straight singles to load the bases. Parker Starr then grounded into a double play as he scored Jarrett Jarvis for the RBI from third. 
 
With the 3-1 lead, Urry took the first pitch to left, but reached base safely on the error by the outfielder as Nielsen scored for the unearned run and the 4-1 lead.
 
Catcher Jarvis led the third-inning charge, stretching the Cougar lead to 6-1. His double down the left field line drove in Caldwell and CJ Latham for two RBI, also extending his hitting streak to seven games. 
 
Then in the fourth, the Utes scored their second run on the night with a sacrifice fly to cut the Cougar lead to 6-2.
 
BYU then countered with Lopez's 2-RBI triple into the gap in deep right-center field, pushing the score to 8-2.
 
The Utes scoring continued to drip along as they got their third run on a sacrifice fly before Caldwell chipped in with an RBI-double in the bottom of the sixth, giving BYU the 9-3 lead. 
 
The Cougars will have a chance to clinch the series win next Tuesday at Utah.
 
"When it was 9-3, I was probably the one guy who knew it wasn't over just because I've been in this rivalry for 20 years, and I understand that's the way it's going to be," Littlewood said. "Whoever has the last at-bat has a chance to win."
 
BYU stays home for a weekend series against Santa Clara beginning Thursday at 6 p.m. MDT on BYUtv.
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