One crooked inning does in baseball's title hopes
OREM, Utah – Utah Valley scored four runs in the third inning to win 5-1 and dash any chances for Northern Colorado baseball to win the Great West Conference regular season title. The Bears will be the two-seed for the Great West Tournament beginning on Tuesday in Grand Forks, N.D.
The Bears actually out-hit the Wolverines 8-to-7 in the game, but they left 10 runners on base in the first of a four-game series.
Sophomore catcher Harrison Lambert was the only Bear to have a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4. Junior Jarod Berggren stretched his hitting streak to a season-best 17 games, doing so on the first pitch he saw in the first inning.
Senior T.J. Berge scored the team's lone run, doing so in the first inning after drawing a walk.
Junior left-hander Joe Willman pitched seven innings. He allowed five runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out four. After the four-run third inning, Willman gave up just one hit and faced the minimum three batters in innings four-through-seven. Kevin Willman pitched the eighth inning and also did not allow a hit, getting two groundouts and a flyout.
Junior Adam Hilker walked to lead off the game, but was thrown out at second attempting to steal. Berge also walked and on the first pitch, Berggren singled up the middle. Junior Ben Packard hit a rope up the third base line that was mishandled, allowing Berge to score. Packard was then tagged out at second base, attempting to move up on the defensive throw home.
Willman threw just 11 pitches in the first inning, keeping the Wolverines off the scoreboard.
With one out, senior Marcus Valenzuela took the first pitch right back up the middle for a single, extending his hitting streak to a career-best seven games. Junior Tony Crudo also hit in his seventh-straight game, roping a single through the right side. Lambert singled to center and the Bears stayed aggressive on the base paths, but Chris Benson in centerfield made a great throw in to tag out Valenzuela at the plate. Hilker walked for the second straight time to load the bases but senior Bret Fanning grounded out to end the Bears half of the second.
Utah Valley evened the score in the bottom of the second. With one out, Kai Hatch singled up the middle, Alex Exon was hit by a pitch and Billy Burgess walked to load the bases. The Bears turned a double play but Hatch scored before the second out was made as Hilker threw to Berge at second, who in turn tossed to Crudo for the tag on Exon at third.
Three singles, a double and two long fly balls to right field gave the Wolverines four runs in the third for the 5-1 advantage.
Willman retired the side in order in the bottom of the fourth, including a pair of strikeouts and he faced the minimum of three batters in each of the next three innings as the score stayed at 5-1. Kevin Willman came in to pitch in the eighth inning and continued the trend, retiring the side in order.
Colby Harrison continued to pinch hit well for the Bears, doubling down the left field line to start the ninth inning. Crudo walked and Lambert singled up the middle, but Crudo took the turn too wide at second base and was tagged out halfway between second and third and the team was unable to take advantage of the base runners, falling 5-1.
The two teams play a doubleheader on Friday beginning at 4:00 pm and conclude the series at noon on Saturday, which is a time change from the original schedule.