SALT LAKE CITY – The seventh-ranked Washington baseball team squandered leads of 10-1 and 13-12, but rallied with five runs in the eighth and three in the ninth to win a wild 21-17 game over Utah Sunday at Smith’s Ballpark.
The Huskies (32-11-1, 19-5) earned their third Pac-12 sweep of the season to keep pace in the Conference race for first place with Oregon State, who swept California. The Beavers are .018 percentage points ahead of the Huskies for first, but UW holds a 1/2-game advantage with three more wins, but one more loss.
The Utes and Huskies combined for 42 hits and 38 runs in what turned out to be a final score that seemed more fitting for a football game.
“I liked the outcome,” Husky Coach Lindsay Meggs said from a bus heading to the airport in Salt Lake City. “I thought our hitters were unbelievable.”
Five Huskies had three or more of the team’s 23 hits, led by Austin Rei’s 5-for-6 day. Trevor Mitsui was 4-of-6 with a homer, six RBI’s and three runs. He ended up hitting .692 in the series (9-for-13) with eight RBI’s and eight runs.
The Huskies scored in seven of nine innings. Their run total set a new season high, but the Huskies came up two shy of equaling their 25-hit day on March 29 at USC.
On the flip side, Meggs said his pitching staff also took something positive from the game.
“It was a great lesson for our pitchers,” he said. “Regardless of the score, you have to keep pitching and you need to finish.”
Utah (13-28, 3-18) entered the game with two home runs on the season, but had four on the day. They recorded season-highs in both hits and runs.
The Huskies jumped all over starter Dalton Carroll in the first inning, pushing four runs across the plate after two outs. Bishop was hit by the first pitch of the game and was moved to second on Ely’s league-leading 19th sacrifice bunt. After a Robert Pehl groundout and a walk to Brian Wolfe, Mitsui singled home Bishop to make it 1-0. Schmidt kept the rally going with a 2-run double and Rei capped the scoring with a RBI single.
Utah cut into the Huskies’ lead in the first inning on a solo home run by Max Schuman, his first career homer, but Washington added to its lead in the third with two runs.
Pehl was hit by a pitch and Wolfe singled to lead off the inning. After a double steal moved both runners into scoring position, Mitsui knocked home Pehl on a ground out. Schmidt followed with a RBI single that made the score 6-1 and gave him his seventh RBI of the series.
The Huskies appeared to break the game wide open in the fourth with four more runs to make it 10-1. Pehl, Mitsui and Rei all had RBI singles and Jack Meggs knocked in the final run of the inning on a fielder’s choice.
But, Utah answered with seven runs in the bottom of the inning to chase Huskies starter Jeff Brigham. The Utes sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning and had seven hits with the big blow being a three-run double by Kody Davis.
In the fifth inning, Utah took the lead, 11-10, over a stunned Huskies’ club on a three-run homer by freshman Jose Rose. It was his first of the year and erased a 10-1 deficit in the span of four outs.
Despite watching their nine-run lead evaporate, Meggs said his team never hung their heads.
“Everybody was upset, frustrated and shocked, but nobody panicked,” Meggs said. “We knew we had to find a way to scratch our way back into the game.”
Washington tied the game back up in the sixth on a Brendan Berry RBI fielder’s choice, but Utah answered back in the bottom of the inning with a single run to re-gain the 12-11 lead.
The Huskies grabbed the 13-12 advantage back in the seventh on a two-run home run by Mitsui, his fifth of the season, but the Utes once again had an answer in the bottom of the inning. They tied the game up on a RBI double by Davis and then took the 16-13 lead on a three-run opposite field blast by TJ Bennett.
Again, Washington still had a trick left up its sleeves, scoring five times in the eighth. Erik Forgione had a RBI single to make it a two-run deficit and after Bishop loaded the bases with a single, Ely followed with a two-run double to tie it at 16-16.
The Huskies took the lead for good on a bases-loaded walk to Wolfe and made it 18-16 on a fielder’s choice ground out by Mitsui, his sixth RBI of the game.
Utah again responded in the bottom of the inning as Rose connected for his second homer of the game to make it 18-17, but UW added a field goal in the ninth to put the game away.
Bishop had the big blow, a two-run single, and Ely capped the scoring with a RBI single.
Troy Rallings set the Utes down in order – the first time all game they were retired 1-2-3 – in the ninth to slam the door shut. Rallings went the final 2 and 2/3 innings to improve to 4-0 on the season.
Utah’s Nick Green (1-4) took the loss.
“It was a great win for us,” Meggs said. “We could have rolled over but didn’t. We found a way to bounce back with the bats and found a way to get it done.”
The Huskies have little time to rest their weary legs. UW returns home tonight and will face Grand Canyon University at Husky Ballpark Monday at 6:00 p.m.
#7 Washington 21, Utah 17
WASH 402 401 253 –- 21 23 0
UTAH 100 731 410 –- 17 19 0
Jeff Brigham, Will Ballowe (4), Trevor Dunlap (5), Troy Rallings (7) and Austin Rei. Dalton Carroll, Tanner Banks (3), Nick Green (6), Dylan Drachler (8) and AJ Young. W – Rallings (4-0). L – Green (1-4). Sv – none. HR – UW, Trevor Mitsui (5); Utah, Max Schuman (1), Josh Rose 2,(2), TJ Bennett (2). 3B – none. 2B – UW, Alex Schmidt, Austin Rei, Andrew Ely; Utah, Wyler Smith, Kody Davis (2), TJ Bennett, Hunter Simmons, Cory Hunt. LOB: UW 9, Utah 6. Time – 3:49. Attendance – 1,023.