BYU baseball pulled off a comeback after being down 0-4 to win their last non-conference game of the season. With Southern Utah University’s baseball program being dropped at the end of the year, it may have also been the last meeting between these two teams.
BYU came into the game having lost nine of its last 10. The last three losses were at home against the University of San Diego.
“We needed to get our feet back on the ground,” BYU Head Coach Vance Law said. “It was a tough week all around, so we needed to have a win.”
The Cougars started the game slow with no runs in the first four innings and four runs allowed.
Matt Milke, a junior transfer from Southwestern Junior College started as pitcher for BYU and allowed four runs in the first four innings. After loading the bases in the top of the fifth, James Lengal replaced him on the mound. Lengal, a freshman right-handed pitcher from Spanish Fork, pitched two strikeouts to end the possession.
“Our relievers came in and did the job when they needed to,” Law said. “That was critical for our win.”
The Cougars scored in the fifth inning with consecutive one-run doubles from Stephen Wells, a senior outfielder from Kenmore, Wash., and Austin Hall, a senior shortstop from Danville, Calif.
Brock Whitney, a sophomore first baseman from South Jordan, tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with a well-placed hit down the right line that brought two runners in. Jaycob Brugman, a sophomore outfielder from Phoenix, ended the inning with one last run batted in to push the Cougars ahead by one.
“In-state games are always important,” Law said. “We’ve been able to win three out of the five this year, and hopefully this propels us to have a good weekend down in Pepperdine.”
The Cougars were missing several players because of injury and suspensions. Wes Guenther, a senior catcher from Overland Park, Kans., was injured during pre-game warm-ups when an errant pitch hit him in the teeth. Guenther was taken to the dentist immediately.
“We think that he’s going to be able to salvage his teeth,” Law said. “Hopefully we’ll have him for the weekend. He’s been cleared to play.”
Pitchers Chris Capper, Mark Anderson and Chris Howard were also missing from Tuesday’s game. All three were recently suspended for violations of the team rules. It is unclear if they will be allowed to play this weekend against Pepperdine.
The Thunderbirds have also had their fair share of missing personnel this season. Head Coach David Eldredge, a former assistant baseball coach at BYU, and Assistant Coach Chase Hudson were fired April 2 for violations regarding the team’s financial regulations. Clayton Carson stepped in as the interim head coach for the rest of the season, but there will be no need to find a permanent replacement because SUU will be dropping its baseball program at the end of the year.
Starting next season, the Thunderbirds will be playing in the Big Sky Conference which doesn’t support baseball. The baseball program will be replaced by men’s tennis.
BYU has played SUU in baseball 179 times since the series began in 1961. Now, the series may forever remain 147-32 in the Cougars’ favor.