The University of Utah baseball team had its first home game of the season in a series of three games played at Smiths Ballpark in Salt Lake City for the first two, and Miller Park in Provo for the final. It was the first time Utah defended its home diamond in just two months shy of two years. It will end up being a two game series due to weather conditions in Provo, but the third will be settled in May.
The two games would see another Utah team take the diamond than fans have seen this season. Mound starters dominated the defense, and bold but confident offensive base runs were the best Utes have had so far. At the top of the second, BYU threatened to run a runner to the third but solid field from Utah, and a strike from Justin Kelly closed the inning.
Standing against BYU’s Easton Walker on the mound at the bottom of others, singles from Tyler Thompson and Kayler Yate’s runners put one out. After Chase Fernlund flew out to the center, Jaylon McLaughlin stepped up and fought to the full count. McLaughlin wanted to score the first races of the game, but came short to second base to finish the round.
Justin Kelly retired BYU in three with help from the field in the third, and closed the fourth with a strike after allowing a hit. Batting at the bottom of the fourth Brock Rudy only reached after a mistake, and Thompson was hit by a pitch that put runners on first and second with one out. Chase Fernlund struck on a founder who went to midfield, advanced Thompson to third and scored Rudy. McLaughlin struck out swinging to end the inning, Utah up 1-0.
BYU looked like their answer had to wait for a caught fly and a strike from Kelly, but with two outs, Mitch McIntyre put the ball out of Utah’s reach in the left corner to score one that made it to others himself.
After Utah ended its half of the fifth offense with three quick infield outs. Justin Kelly opened the sixth with three straight Ks, his first solo three up three down the season. DH Brock Rudy started the bats for Utah in the sixth and put the ball right into the right field. Vinny Zavolta followed and was down in the count when he took only after being hit by a pitch.
In the seventh with two outs, BYU’s Peyton Cole doubled, and Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg pulled Kelly off the mound and picked up Matt Sox who started by going two to load the bases. A wild pitch from the Sox allowed one run over the record for BYU which went up 2-1.
Utah responded at the bottom of the seventh. After McLaughlin singled out and stole others, C. Rowan Jr. left. up on the plate with two outs and put in the right midfield to bring McLaughlin home and equalized to 2-2.
In the eighth, Tyler Thompson started a late rally for Utah with a single. Thompson went to second place on a sacrificial bundle from Matt Richardson followed by a single from Fernlund which put Thompson on third. McLaughlin scored Thompson followed by a single from Jayden Kiernan to load the bases. Kai Roberts repeated the effort with a single goal Fernlund and McLaughlin. Rowan Jr. next time was hit by a pitch to reload the bases BYU went one more before beating Thompson on his second up to end the round at 6-2 Utah.
Utah brought in Brayson Hurdsman to close and BYU shook him up with two down and one runner on as Mcintyre tripled to center and scored one. The next batter started to end the game and gave Utah its second win of the season, the first since the opening series with Cal State Fullerton.
Kelly played his best so far after a slow start to the season, following the Tommy John operation. In 6 rounds he allowed 6 hits for 2 races and a seasonal 6 strike against 27 strokes.
Utah started Friday’s game in Salt Lake hot from victory Thursday night. The outdoors were dominant on the sacks, aggressively stealing bases, advanced runners on wild tracks, taking advantage of walks and strategically sacrificing butter. Two trips and two singles in the third gave Utah its first run.
A big fourth inning followed for Utah which BYU would later try and fail to recover from. BYU’s Cy Nielson hit Vinny Zavolta with an inside pitch to lead off. Zavolta went to second and then third on wild courses, and a trip put Thompson in first place. Shea Kramer stepped up and tripled to center to score two, and later even took home on a single from Matt Richardson.
BYU pulled Nielson from the mound in favor of Cooper McKeehan who allowed a new race before retiring for Luke Sterner who ended BYU’s nightmare fourth round. Utah’s run put this game out of reach, scoring four on two hits.
Utah repeated its appearance in the sixth with a lead from Richardson followed by a bundle from Fernlund that put runners on first and second. Another wild pitch put Richardson on third and Fernlund on second. A sacrificial fly from McLaughlin scored Richardson and Kiernan the singlet to bring Fernlund over before the end of the inning. Utah threatened closure with 7-0 score to BYU scored one on seventh.
Like Kelly, Kyle Robeniol had a breakout game on the mound. He recorded his first win of the season, his first since 2019. In six innings he left only two hits, no runs and withdrew eight strokes with a strike. When he came in for Robeniol in the seventh, Randon Hostert allowed three hits for two races, but knocked out six and put on a final clinic for BYU.
Snow postponed game of match three, but the matchup will be settled on May 18 in Provo, first pitch time expected. Utah will return to the road next week to start a conference game against Stanford with the first course scheduled for 19.05 MST on Friday 19. March.