BYU storms Franklin Covey Field with three-game sweep over Utes

The Swingin’ Utes ended the regular season with a whimper at Franklin Covey Field-against their archrivals from down south, no less.

And with the Mountain West Conference tournament just days away, it wasn’t exactly optimum timing.

In the final series of the regular season, the surging BYU Cougars steamrolled Utah with a three-game sweep, coming from behind each day to deal the Utes three demoralizing losses, dropping them to the No. 6 seed for this week’s conference tournament.

“I’m very disappointed with the way we played this weekend,” said U head coach Bill Kinneberg. “I thought we would play a little better than we did.”

In game one Thursday afternoon, Utah took a 4-0 lead with a big third inning, punctuated by John Welsh’s run-scoring triple. But Ute starter Josh Cooper couldn’t hold the lead despite the cushion. The Cougars plated three runners an inning later and finally took the lead on Casey Nelson’s RBI double in the seventh.

Utah tied it back up a half-inning later, but the Cougs saved their heroics for the ninth inning. Facing Ute reliever Brad DeVore, Jeff Hiestand led the inning off with a drive over the right-field wall-his second homer of the day-to give BYU an 8-7 victory and game one of the series.

“His home runs were key,” said BYU head coach Vance Law. “His first one helped us take the momentum back away from Utah. He had two huge hits. I am really proud of our team’s blue-collar effort.”

It only got worse for Utah. The team once again held an early lead Friday, but couldn’t hold off another BYU rally. The Cougars quickly erased a 4-1 deficit with an eight-run sixth, putting 11 consecutive runners on the bases to completely take over control of the game.

Lucas Trinnaman (3-4), who took the loss, was replaced by Greg Krause in the middle of the inning, but he didn’t fare any better. The 6-foot-7 freshman gave up six straight hits and yielded six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning as the Cougars put away a 14-7 win.

“We had our opportunities in each game to win all three, and we didn’t get it done,” Kinneberg said. “We didn’t take advantage, and they did.”

It was the same old story Saturday, as Utah put two runs on the board in the first inning but got nothing from then on. The Cougars scored five in the fourth en route to a 6-2 victory, finishing off the sweep of their archrivals.

Now comes the hard part for the Utes: Regrouping after one of their most difficult weekends of the season in preparation for this week’s MWC tournament in Las Vegas.

The sixth-seeded Utes (27-26, 9-13 MWC) will face off against No. 3 San Diego State (22-34, 14-8 MWC) in the first round Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. PDT.

“(Regrouping) is something that you have to do in athletics-whether you win or you lose, there’s always a next game until the end of the season,” Kinnneberg said. “Hopefully we get on the bus (today) with some resolve.”

Kinneberg will go with his regular rotation this week, starting with Cooper Tuesday and following with Trinnman and Eric King. The team also hopes to see the return of Brandon Ast, who has been battling a sore arm in recent weeks that has kept him out of action. The junior has been both a reliever and the team’s fourth starter this year and is third on the team with a 3.86 ERA in 11 appearances.

As for Tuesday’s matchup, the Utes haven’t had much success against SDSU this year, having dropped three of their four meetings-though all four of those games took place at the Aztecs’ home stadium.

“They have two of the better pitchers in the league, and they have a very talented group of players,” Kinneberg said. “If they are in their right mindset and playing well, they’re going to be very difficult to beat.”

The tournament is double-elimination, with the championship game slated for May 27 at 3 p.m.

“We’ve talked about this tournament all year long. They’ve been through it last year, most of them have, and understand how this works,” Kinnberg said. “No matter what seed you are, you still have a chance. You just hope your guys are ready mentally and physically to have a great week of baseball.”