The Utah Valley University baseball team scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to take game three of the weekend series, 9-8, over Portland on Saturday night at Brent Brown Ballpark. Zac Willis helped propel the Wolverines to the walk-off win with the game-winning single.
Trailing 8-5 to open the last of the ninth, UVU (9-8) quickly loaded the bases thanks to a leadoff infield single from Spencer Gothberg and back-to-back hit batters by UP's (9-6) closer Billy Sahlinger. Jake Atkinson then started the scoring with an RBI single to left to make it an 8-6 contest. A couple of pitches later, Craig Brinkerhoff came home on a wild pitch to make it 8-7. With the tying run on third and the winning run on second and just one away, Justin Erlandson then tied the game with an RBI infield single. Following an intentional walk to Greyson Bogden to load the bases, Willis then wasted no time completing the comeback victory for Utah Valley as he pulled the first pitch he saw through the left side of the infield for the walk-off hit.
"This was a great win. For the guys to come back and do what they just did is outstanding," head coach Eric Madsen said. "They did a great job sticking to what they are capable of and this is truly a great testament to what our club can do."
With his game-winning hit, Willis finished going 2-for-5 in the ballgame with an RBI. Trevor Howell led the Wolverine offense with a 3-for-5 performance with three RBIs and two runs scored, while Erlandson and Atkinson recorded two hits apiece for UVU en route to the victory.
Following a walk by Paul Estrada in the bottom of the second, the Wolverines were the first to get on the board thanks to a pair of two-out RBI doubles from Howell and Bogden to take a 2-0 lead.
The Pilots quickly answered back with a four-run third and a two-run fourth to take a 6-2 lead of their own. Grant Taylor delivered the big blow in the in third with a go-ahead three-run homer to left-center, and Caleb Whalen followed for UP in the fourth with a two-run double to make it 6-2.
UVU struck back with a run in the last of the fourth thanks to a two-out bloop RBI single from Bogden and two more two-out runs in the fifth to make it 6-5. With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the fifth, Estrada started the two-out rally with a single up the middle. Atkinson then followed with a single to center to put runners on first and second, and Howell drove home Estrada with an RBI single to right. Erlandson then capped the scoring with Utah Valley's fourth-straight single to make it a one-run game at 6-5.
Portland then answered with an insurance run in the seventh and another in the eighth to set the stage for UVU's ninth-inning heroics.
A day removed from earning his first collegiate save, Marco Briones (1-0) picked up his first victory of the season after pitching a scoreless top of the ninth for UVU. UP closer Sahlinger was tagged with the loss for the Pilots after giving up four runs on two hits to drop to 0-1 on the season.
The four-game series concludes on Sunday with a noon MT first pitch. Danny Beddes is slated to take the mound for UVU, while Kevin Baker will start for Portland.
"I'm excited that we are in position to be able to win the series on Sunday," Madsen said. "We've got Beddes going for us, so hopefully our guys come to the park ready to play."
Following Sunday's finale, the Wolverines will remain home to host Minnesota of the Big Ten Conference for three games next weekend, March 18-20.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.