PROVO — Heading into Tuesday’s rivalry baseball game, BYU had won nine straight contests overall while Utah had lost nine straight — the proverbial story of two programs going two different directions.

So, naturally, the Utes beat the Cougars 12-7 on BYU’s home field.

What else would you expect in this rivalry? As it turned out, No. 10 wasn’t coming for either team. 

And it all happened in front of 3,192 fans — the largest crowd ever to watch a game at Miller Park, eclipsing the previous mark of 3,189 on May 19, 2019, when BYU played San Francisco. 

It was also Star Wars Night at Miller Park, and for Utah, there had been a disturbance in the force the past couple of weeks due to that prolonged losing streak.

But the Utes snapped that skid and won the season series against the Cougars. 

“It’s been hard for us. You can’t shy away from it. It’s part of the game. It happens at every level. It happens to almost everybody at some point and it was our turn,” Utah coach Gary Henderson said of the losing streak.

“I’m really happy and proud actually of the way our guys have played in terms of how hard they’re playing. Sometimes line drives are caught and the bloops fall in and you make an error at the wrong time; we kind of went through all that. Obviously, we played much better tonight. Cleaner. We had a good spirit about us.”

Added Utah second baseman Landon Frei: “It definitely gets us way more confident. Confidence was definitely down, losing all those games, but beating a good team like BYU, especially winning the season series, is just huge for confidence.”

The Utes jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning but after six innings, the Cougars had battled back to take a 5-4 advantage. 

Instead of folding, Utah opted to strike back — with a four-run seventh inning.

In the seventh, Frei led off with a home run that just snuck inside the left field foul pole to tie the game at 5-5. 

“Pretty much when I hit it I thought it was going to be gone or foul,” Frei said. 

That homer kickstarted a four-run frame for the Utes, staking them to a lead they would not relinquish. 

The key to not being deflated after surrendering the lead?

“Sticking with the approach, hitting-wise,” Frei said. “It worked in the first few innings and kind of slowed down, but we were just looking for balls up in the zone and I got one.

“I got on top of it and it worked out.”

Frei’s blast seemingly jolted the rest of the team. It was followed by a triple by Chase Anderson and a run-scoring single by TJ Clarkson to put the Utes up 6-5.

Later, a base hit by Davis Cop and a sacrifice fly staked Utah to an 8-5 advantage. 

“It’s a big one,” Henderson said of Frei’s homer. “We hadn’t been doing that, either — answering every time somebody scores a second time.

“We had been doing a pretty good job of answering the first time but the second time we get punched, we haven’t been able to put a crooked number up on the board so to be able to get anything, running the ball off the foul pole was big.”

Said first baseman Alex Baeza: “That was big to get us right back in and get the momentum back in our dugout, but coach talks about keeping our poise all year.

You’re going to trade blows with teams back and forth. Momentum will leave your dugout at any point in the game. The team that can keep their poise and not lose it is going to be the team that’s going to be rewarded at the end.”

The Cougars got back to within one run at 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh, but could get no closer. 

“We got off to a slow start offensively,” said BYU interim head coach Trent Pratt. “It just didn’t happen tonight, but we battled. Kudos to them; they kept battling.”

Utah got on the board first by putting up a three-spot in the third inning. 

BYU didn’t score, or get a hit, until the fifth inning. That’s when Austin Deming walked, which was followed by the Cougars’ first hit of the night, a double by Jacob Wilk down the right field line.

Hayden Leatham flied out, scoring Deming on a sacrifice fly. Ozzie Pratt reached on an error, scoring Wilk as BYU cut its deficit in half to 4-2. 

Then in the sixth, Mitch McIntyre drew a walk to open the frame, then he scored on Ryan Sepede’s double down the right field line as BYU drew within 4-3. T

hen Cole Gambill smashed a two-run home run over the wall in center field and the Cougars seized their first lead of the game, 5-4. 

But then Frei and the Utes erupted for their big seventh inning. 

“It’s nice to get that weight off your shoulders and get back in the win column. It finally felt like the ball was going our way,” Baeza said.

“A losing streak could have really hurt the team mentally but we’ve got a good group of guys here. We know we have the talent and the guys in the locker room to really help us win.” 

The Utes scored four insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings while reliever Blake Whiting shut the door on the Cougars over the final two frames.

With the victory, Utah improved to 26-25-1 overall. BYU fell to 31-19 overall.

“It definitely feels good to get in the win column,” Frei said. “Some tough breaks in that stretch, but we played some good baseball and played some tough teams.”

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The two teams split their two previous meetings in Salt Lake City. The Cougars beat the Utes 10-3 on March 15 while Utah earned an 8-7 victory over BYU on April 19. 

The Cougars conclude their regular season this weekend with a three-game series at home against Loyola Marymount ahead of the West Coast Conference tournament. 

Utah finishes up its regular season this weekend with a three-game series at California. The Utes need to win two games in that series to qualify for the Pac-12 tournament. 

“Now we focus on next weekend,” Baeza said, “and we take two out of three and we’re in the postseason — right where we want to be.”

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