The Utah baseball team brought out the green caps to observe St. Patrick’s Day, but the luck of the Irish was with the BYU Cougars Tuesday evening at Smith’s Ballpark.
Except for perhaps the Utes’ Bransen Kuehl.
Cole Gambill and Colin Reuter hit home runs, Alex Sardina had a two-run triple, and the Cougars’ defense turned three double plays as BYU routed Utah 10-3 in front of 2,048 fans, who braved 40-degree weather and scattered rain showers.
There wasn’t much for Ute fans to cheer about as BYU scored three times in the second inning, twice more in the third and had a 10-0 advantage by the sixth frame.
“We did a good job getting ahead in the count, but we had too many fastballs up and BYU made sure we knew it,” said Utah coach Gary Henderson.
BYU improved to 9-5 so far this season and coach Mike Littlewood’s team, which features 20 Utah athletes, was coming off an important match against Big 12 power Oklahoma State, where it won one of three games and is hoping to quickly establish itself when it joins that league in two years.
The Cougars did it with timely hitting, including a pair of long balls that easily cleared the fence with the help of the brisk wind. On defense, Bryce Robison started and retired five of seven batters over two innings, and then the Cougars averaged a different hurler about every inning.
BYU was never threatened. Utah, in fact, was scoreless until the eighth inning when Landon Frei scored on a wild pitch, and Davis Cop followed afterward with a two-run double.
The Utes’ only other highlight came from Kuehl, a freshman pitcher who started his college career nearly a month ago by giving up two bases on balls, a hit batsmen and then a grand slam at Loyola Marymount.
He had since Feb. 20 to think about it until Henderson summoned him from the bullpen with a runner on second base and two outs. Kuehl faced Brock Watkins, who had been 3 for 3, and retired him a long fly ball to the right-field fence that Dakota Duffalo gathered before crashing into the fence.
The next inning, Kuehl retired BYU in order and his earned-run average dropped from infinity to a more forgiving 27.0.
“It was great to be out there (on the mound) and get some confidence,” Kuehl said. “It’s a great atmosphere. Just got to keep working and let my teammates help me.”
The Utes fell to 11-4-1 and start a three-game series at Oregon Friday. This is their first of three games this season against BYU, including another at Smith’s Ballpark April 19.
BYU begins West Coast Conference play Thursday with a three-game set at Portland. The Cougars should be feeling well after an error-free victory over their rivals and their best offensive effort so far this season.