Facebook Twitter



At last, BYU and Utah staged something resembling a baseball game Saturday afternoon. For a little variety in the hard-hitting, season-ending I-15 Series, the Cougars and Utes played a game that included decent pitching, outstanding defensive plays, clutch hitting and pitching changes for reasons beside sheer desperation.

Eventually, everything added up to the same old result: BYU 8, Utah 7 at Cougar Field.The teams concluded the four-game series with a Saturday night contest at Derks Field.

Blaine Milne's bases-loaded, one-out single in the 10th inning ended the opener of the two-city doubleheader for the Cougars, who move onto the WAC playoffs while the Utes are finished for the season.

Before next spring, the Utes will have to update the scouting report on Milne.

"For some reason, Utah thinks I can't hit a curveball," Milne observed, after Utah's Bill Moeller watched a 2-2 curve sail into left field.

The Utes had taken a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth, only to have the Cougars tie the game on Matt Norman's run-scoring single. In the 10th, a walk to Burt Call loaded the bases. BYU Coach Gary Pullins planned to use Milne, his regular catcher, behind the plate in the first game, but Milne told Pullins he'd expected to play the second game when he arrived at the park. So Pullins started Brian Banks and inserted Milne only in the 10th after using a pinch runner for Banks. Nice timing.

So the Utes were again left wondering how to beat the Cougars. They tried scoring 19 and 14 runs in the first two games of the series and that failed, as BYU racked up 20 runs in each game - and that was with seniors Craig Subdury and Don Emery pitching for Utah. So Ute Coach Rick Sofield tried freshman Mark Wankier Saturday afternoon, and what happened? Wankier shut down the Cougars for five innings.

The Utes, meanwhile, took a 3-0 lead against BYU starter Lance Clark, with Rob Beck hitting his third homer of the series in the fifth. Finally, BYU solved Wankier, a left-hander from East High, in the sixth.

Ralph Obray's run-scoring double, Call's two-run homer, Banks' solo homer and Randy Wilstead's sacrifice fly gave BYU a 5-3 lead. Utah answered with Brett Alvey's game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh, at least making for an interesting finish.

With runners at second and third and one out in the Utah ninth and Alvey coming up, Pullins relieved Travis Dowdell with Bart Peterson. Dowdell was the mysterious freshman with the split-fingered fastball who'd pitched scoreless innings amid the wreckage in Thursday's 20-19 game, but Pullins chose to experiment. Peterson looked promising this spring before an elbow injury, and Pullins hopes to have him back strong for postseason play, so Pullins took out Dowdell to give Peterson another look - besides trying to win the game.

"Everyone's in love with that split-fingered fastball. The problem is, it's the most inconsistent pitch we teach," Pullins said. "Without the split, (Dowdell's) just not effective."

So Peterson went after Alvey with a base open, but grooved a 3-2 pitch that Alvey whacked into left-center field to bring home the tying and go-ahead runs.

"He threw it down the middle," winced Pullins, knowing Peterson's control is off after missing a month's work.

Peterson was taken off the hook by Norman's tying single off Larry Murray. He worked a smooth top of the 10th with the help of a botched hit-and-run play, and moments later had his first victory, thanks to Milne's game-ending hit.