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U. GETS PITCHING BUT NOT HITTING IN LOSS TO BYU

SHARE U. GETS PITCHING BUT NOT HITTING IN LOSS TO BYU

Utah coach Rick Sofield just doesn't understand it. When he gets hitting, he doesn't get pitching. When he gets pitching, he doesn't get hitting.

Monday night's 4-3 loss to BYU, before 3,500 fans at Franklin Quest Field, was an example of the latter. Utah starter Don Baker went the distance, scattering nine hits, which is usually more than good enough to win a game in the wild WAC Eastern Division.But BYU starter Shane Bloomfield was just a little better, limiting the Utes to six hits. He registered only one strikeout, but he rarely let Utah hit the ball out of the infield, recording 20 groundball outs.

"He (Bloomfield) looked like a third-round draft choice out there tonight," Sofield said. "I saw him a week ago, and he looked like a 650th-round draft choice."

Sofield was more than a little frustrated with his team's inability to execute in the bottom of the ninth, after Travis Parker led off with a double. The next batter was Kevin Bracy, who missed a bunt attempt, then had a chat with his coach. Bracy told Sofield he felt better about swinging away, trying to advance the runner by hitting behind him, and the coach said OK.

Bracy promptly hit an easy grounder to third base, forcing Casey Allie (running for Parker) to hold at second.

"Bracy's job was to get him to third base," Sofield said, shaking his head. "I think that's the first ball he's pulled in six months."

It got worse. With one out and Adam Sessions at the plate, Bloomfield picked off Allie. Sessions then fouled out to end the game, sending Utah to its fourth loss in five games against the Cougars - three of them by one run.

BYU, meanwhile, is on a roll. The Cougs have won six straight and are 11-1 in WAC play since getting off to a horrendous 2-5 start. But although BYU is in first place and Utah is in fourth, the disparity doesn't look that big when they're on the field.

The noticeable difference is power. The Cougars have hit nearly twice as many homers as the Utes in WAC play, they pounded two more Monday, and they would have had a couple more if this game had been played on Cougar Field or Ute Field.

"This big ballpark makes it very equitable," said BYU coach Gary Pullins. "We thought we hit some pretty good blasts, but they didn't get out."

BYU's first run of the game didn't come on a blast, however. In the top of the first, the Cougars' D.G. Nelson, who had walked, scored on Mike Espiritu's bases-loaded double-play ball.

The Cougars got solo homers from Carter Hagerman in the second and Jared Bills in the fourth, wrapped around a third-inning RBI single by Espiritu that scored Ryan Hall, who had doubled.

Trailing 4-0, the Utes rallied in the bottom of the fourth. Andy Webster and Chris Arambula each singled, then advanced a base on Shane Jones' groundout. Parker singled in both runners, and advanced to second when Nelson mishandled Bracy's groundball. Sessions then slapped a line-drive single off the glove of BYU third baseman Lance Moore, scoring Parker, but Garrett Stratton ended the inning by hitting into a double play.

The Utes didn't get another runner past first base until the ninth.

The teams meet again today - for the final time this season - on Ute Field, at 2 p.m. BYU needs a win in its quest to host the WAC playoffs; the Utes are playing strictly for pride.