Utes beat Cougars in late-night thriller

utah baseball Griffin Adams
Utah players AJ Young (No. 36), TJ Bennett (No. 13) and Konnor Armijo (No. 25) celebrate a two-run home run in the sixth inning by Armijo.

Utah players AJ Young (No. 36), TJ Bennett (No. 13) and Konnor Armijo (No. 25) celebrate a two-run home run in the sixth inning by Armijo.

The stadium was as full as it has been all season.

With 3,800 fans screaming, Utah and BYU were both hyped to play in their last matchup of the season and the energy could be felt throughout the Salt Lake valley. However, the game got off to a slow start as only one run was scored between the two teams through three innings.

But as the game progressed and momentum swung back and forth from dugout to dugout, it was Utah that used some late-game heroics to grab a victory against its in-state rival.

“We’ve been doing this all year,” head coach Bill Kinneberg said. “Our guys have battled every day. From day one whether we’ve been up or down. I can’t say enough about this group. How hard they’ve worked and how much they’ve battled. We’ve been punched in the gut so many times this year and they keep coming back.”

This was the last time that Utah and the Cougars would play each other this year. BYU had pulled out the first two victories by a combined score of 24-6, including a 20-3 win in Provo to open up the series.

Utah managed to grab the third game of the year down in Provo earlier this month, 12-10, and it was looking to even up the season series in this final game.

The Utes made some mistakes early on that really killed any momentum they could have mustered up. For the first few innings, they were unable to bring home any runs, leaving runners on base. Strikeouts and tags hurt Utah as the game went into the final innings. Later in the game, the Utes finally capitalized on some opportunities.

In the sixth inning, senior catcher Konnor Armijo smashed a two-run home run to tie the score at two. BYU rebounded, though, in the next inning to regain the lead by one run. Yet another low-scoring grudge match, the game was playing into Utah’s favor. The Ute players have been involved in games like these all season long and they took advantage of their experience.

Heading into the final inning down by two, senior TJ Bennett started things off with a double to get in scoring position. After a walk to to Josh Rose, AJ Young drove home a run to make the game 4-3 in BYU’s favor. With two runners on base and Utah knocking on the door of a comeback victory, Cory Hunt stepped into the box and smacked a double to bring in another run and to tie the game up at 4 runs apiece.

“That’s the only way to do it, right there,” Hunt said. “That’s the exclamation point we need, right there.”

With one out on the board, it was up to Biss Larsen to try to bring home the game-winning run. Larsen answered the call as he ripped a single into left field, bringing home the run and ultimately the win against the Cougarsl, 5-4.

“That’s got to cap my baseball career,” Larsen said. “I’ve been a baseball player for four years now and that’s actually the first walk off of my life. I couldn’t pick a better team to do it with and a better opponent to do it against.”

The Utes return to action this upcoming weekend against Arizona State on the road. The first game is scheduled to start on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Mountain time.