Rinse, repeat

True to form, the BYU Cougars have once again established themselves as the Utes’ nemesis.

This time, it’s on the baseball diamond, where the Cougs picked up their fourth come-from-behind victory over Utah in one week’s time.

In a second-round showdown in the MWC tourney in Las Vegas, the two rivals met once again Wednesday afternoon, with both clubs looking to go 2-0 in tournament play. And for a while there, it was smooth sailing for the Utes. All-conference first baseman Jay Brossman quickly gave starter Lucas Trinnaman a nice cushion, drilling a three-run homer-his tenth of the year-over the left-field fence at Earl Wilson Stadium to put Utah up 3-0 in the first.

The Utes had no trouble putting points on the scoreboard early on, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the fifth inning, and looking well on their way to their second-straight upset victory this week (following Tuesday’s win over third-seeded San Diego State).

But the bullpen woes that plagued the team so glaringly late in the season reared their ugly heads once again. After closing the gap to 8-4, the Cougars inexplicably scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth to stun the Utes, 9-8.

“We haven’t gotten it done. It’s plain and simple. We didn’t close it out,” U head coach Bill Kinneberg said. “We had three outs to get and a four-run lead to hold on to, and we didn’t get it done.”

The BYU offense didn’t waste any time staging the late comeback, as the first four hitters of the inning reached base and the fifth-shortstop Marcos Villezcas-cut the deficit to a single run with a sacrifice fly. Two batters later, Ben Saylor drove in the tying run with a single to right field.

It was an outing to forget for Ute reliever Brad DeVore (3-5), who was responsible for seven earned runs in just 1.1 innings on the hill and took the loss. He has been one of the team’s most reliable pitchers out of the bullpen for most of the year, but didn’t have his stuff Wednesday.

“Evidently not,” Kinneberg said. “We had the right guy in at the right time. I wouldn’t change anything and he wouldn’t change anything. It just didn’t happen for us.”

Brian Lane came on to stop the bleeding, but still couldn’t get the Utes out of trouble. With two out and two on, Daniel Vargas singled to left, driving in the winning run and putting the cap on another improbable comeback.

Utah’s loss comes not long after a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cougars at Franklin Covey Field last weekend. The Utes had more than enough trouble holding leads in that series, as BYU came back from deficits in all three games for a trio of dramatic wins.

Now, after a first-round victory over Air Force Tuesday, the Cougars remain undefeated after two rounds in the tournament. In the other dugout, however, Utah now stands on the brink of elimination-an especially crippling result considering how promising the team’s prospects looked through one full game and seven innings of another one.

The team rode a four-run fourth inning to an 8-5 upset victory over the Aztecs Tuesday afternoon, paced by Brossman’s four RBI. Despite eight walks by starter Josh Cooper, and four errors by the defense playing behind him, the Utes kept the damage to a minimum and consistently got themselves out of trouble. Cooper (6-6) earned the win, while DeVore earned his seventh save of the season with an easy ninth inning.

But DeVore was the goat just a day later when the Utes once again squandered a winnable game against their rivals from down south.

Now standing at 1-1 in the double-elimination tournament, Utah will play EITHER UNLV OR TCU tomorrow, with the first pitch slated for 1:30 p.m. MDT.

“This game’s a funny game. You’ve got to play every out, every pitch until it’s done. If you don’t, it’ll bite you,” Kinneberg said. “If you make pitches and get key hits and play key defense, you’re going to win a lot of games. If you don’t?that’s when you lose. We’ve just got to buckle down and try to win a doubleheader tomorrow.”

Kamil Krzaczynski

Kamil Krzaczynski

Ute catcher Adam Frank slides safely into third during the Utes’ 6-2 loss to the Cougars May 20 at Franklin Covey Field. After Wednesday’s loss, the Utes have now lost four in a row to their rivals.