BYU pitcher Eric Smith said he wasn't intense enough when he got shelled by Utah last Friday. Coach Gary Pullins said he was too intense. On Tuesday, everyone agreed Smith's intensity level was just right.
The junior righthander limited the Utes (6-22 overall, 1-6 WAC) to three runs over 62/3 innings as BYU (16-10, 3-3) took a 10-3 victory at Cougar Field. The win gives the Cougs a 2-1 edge in the season series between these in-state rivals, with the final game scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Derks Field.Smith (7-1) got in minor trouble to start the game, giving up a couple of ground-ball singles to the first two batters he faced. But after Victor McCraney's sacrifice fly scored Marc Benjamin with the game's first run, a double play ended the Utes' mini-rally.
From that point, Smith was in control. He shut out the Utes for the next five innings, limiting them to five hits over that stretch. His teammates, meanwhile, gave him all the support he needed. Mike Espiritu's second-inning solo home run tied the score, and a four-run outburst in the fourth, keyed by Darren Milne's two-run homer, put Utah behind for good.
The Utes chased Smith and got to within three in the seventh by combining three singles and a walk for two runs, but lefty Chris Hermansen held Utah scoreless over the final 21/3 innings to preserve the victory. And while Hermansen was taking care of the Utah hitters, the BYU lineup added four runs in the final two innings to kill any chance of a comeback.
Leadoff-hitter Milne led the Cougar attack with two hits and two RBI. Brent Turley, Dave Madsen and Mark Studdert also had two hits each, while Chris Cooper contributed a solo homer in the fourth and Erik Larsen had a pair of RBI on a single and an infield out.
For Utah, Matt Rich had three hits while Mike Alto and Jeremy Chiles had two each. The Utes didn't have a single extra-base hit, giving them a grand total of one extra-base hit in the two games at Cougar Field.
Besides power, though, the big difference between these teams has been pitching. Except for the rough outings by Smith and John Vandenburgh on Friday, the Cougar hurlers have been better. Matt Lipscomb (0-6) has started the last two games for the Utes and lasted a total of five innings. Jason Mudrock pitched well Saturday but allowed four of five batters he faced Tuesday to reach base safely.
In today's game, the Utes' hopes will rest on the arm of Guy Fowlks (1-3, 7.14 ERA), who beat BYU Friday and last year - both times at Derks Field. Utah coach Rick Sofield says Fowlks is a flyball pitcher who fares well in Derks' roomy confines.
Opposing Fowlks will be Mike Nielsen (3-1, 6.04 ERA), who went five innings to get the victory against Utah on Saturday.
For BYU, this game is important because they are in the position of trying to catch a San Diego State team that is 10-1 and trying to run away with the title.
"We have to look at winning every series we play," Pullins said. "Tomorrow's game is really a big game for us."