Utes continue postseason run with 9th-inning rally

By Bubba Brown, Staff Writer

With the dream of continuing their miraculous postseason run fading into the southern California sky, the Utes conjured up some late-inning magic to beat the Georgia Southern Eagles and prolong their season for at least one more day.

With the score knotted at nine apiece with two out in the bottom of the ninth and the winning run on second base, Michael Beltran capped off a remarkable comeback by singling to left field, knocking in Rick Cornu and allowing the Utes to win their first NCAA Tournament game since 1960 and continue to play on in the regional.

Although the Utes were able to pull off the comeback, the outcome looked bleak through the first seven innings.

The Eagles stormed out of the gate with three first-inning runs off of Brian Budrow, highlighted by a Griffin Porter RBI double, then tacked on a single run in the second to take an early 4-0 lead.

“The (slow start) kind of put the damper on the fire we had at the beginning of the game,” said second baseman Corey Shimada.

The Utes got one run back in the bottom of the third with a Shimada solo home run, but allowed Georgia Southern to retake control with a three-run fourth to take a 7-1 edge.

Utah once again climbed back into the game when Cooper Blanc scored on a throwing error in the fifth and C.J. Cron hit a solo homer in the sixth, but gave the runs back to the Eagles in the top of the seventh when Ty Wright hit a two-run homer to again put the deficit at six.

Blanc answered with a homer in the bottom half of the inning, but the Utes found themselves down five runs as they entered the bottom of the eighth.

The Utes’ improbable comeback started there.

Austin Jones struck out following a Devin Walker single that started off the inning. It would be the last out the Utes made for quite some time.

Rick Cornu doubled to left field, Blanc singled in two runs and Beltran reached on an error to put the Utes within two runs. Consecutive singles by Shimada, Tyler Yagi, and Nick Kuroczko tied the game at nine and set up C.J. Cron’s sacrifice fly to give Utah the lead.

“We fed off of each other’s great at bats,” Shimada said about the comeback.

Refusing to give up, the Eagles took advantage of an errant throw by pitcher Greg Krause to tie the game on a sacrifice fly of their own by Wright in the top of the ninth, setting the table for Beltran’s heroics in the bottom of the inning.

Although his line may be overlooked in the box score, the unsung hero of the game was reliever Stephen Streich, providing a solid relief appearance in which he gave up only two runs in four innings.

“I’m really proud how (our team) bounced back,” said head coach Bill Kinneberg. “Streich did a great job keeping the game close.”

Streich’s presence was also felt in the dugout.

“(We were) feeling down,” Blanc said. “Streich was screaming at us how this could be our last game, and he picked us up.”

The Utes have little time to celebrate the hard-fought win, as they will face Gonzaga in another elimination game Sunday at 2 p.m.

Shimada, recognizing the tough task Gonzaga provides, doesn”t want to rely on late-inning sorcery like the Utes summoned today.

“We have to play lights out,” he said.

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Tyler Cobb

Michael Beltran hit a two-out single that scored Rick Cornu to give the Utes a 11-10 win over Georgia Southern in Utah’s second game of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon.