Ute offense and defense combine for thrashing of New Mexico

No one is quite sure what it is, but when it happens, you get results like Saturday’s 10-2 win by the U baseball team.

The team split the final two of a three-game series against conference rival New Mexico over the weekend, losing Friday’s contest 7-4 in 11 innings, but pouncing all over the Lobos on Saturday.

As the Utes improve to 8-19 overall and 3-7 in Mountain West Conference play, the team needs to put its finger on what triggered the change in play from last Thursday’s 15-4 beating they received from New Mexico to the one they handed the Lobos on Saturday.

“That is the million-dollar question,” U baseball coach Tim Esmay joked after the game.

Friday’s heartbreaker, as Esmay called it, was just that as the Utes had a chance to take the game with the score tied at four and two men on base in the bottom of the ninth inning.

When they didn’t, New Mexico scored three runs in the 11th inning to take the game.

It seemed that by Saturday, the Utes had come full-circle after a big loss and then a close one. The Utes were first to attack with two runs in the second inning. New Mexico answered with a run of its own in the top of the third inning.

Taking their 2-1 lead into the bottom half of the inning, the Utes unloaded six runs on the Lobos, powered by a two-run home run to right-center field by right fielder Eric Chevalier, who extended his MWC hitting streak to 30 games.

“You just get lucky sometimes,” Chevalier said after the game of his streak.

Chevalier, who went 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs and two RBI, was accompanied in the offensive attack by center fielder Matt Ciaramella, who had the same numbers, third baseman Jay Brossman, who went 2-for-5 with one run and two driven in, and left fielder Tyler Kay, who led all Utes at the plate, going 3-for-4 with one run and three RBI.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who can swing it,” Chevalier said, referring to an offense that has been consistent for the most part this season.

But the exceptional play of the day came from starting pitcher Ben Buck.

Buck pitched all nine innings of the game and gave up just six hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.

“Buck carried us on his shoulders,” Esmay said.

But with winds causing some fielding trouble all day, both Esmay and Buck recognized the work put in by the defense.

“We played good defense behind me…tracking balls down,” Buck said.

Buck said that the difference between the Utes’ play from Thursday to Saturday was just a matter of timing.

“We came out today [and] we just took care of it early,” he said.

Esmay agreed, citing that once the Utes had an 8-1 lead in the fourth inning, it was all uphill for the Lobos, and that’s never an optimistic viewpoint.

“We didn’t give them a chance,” Esmay said.

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