FORT WORTH, Texas - The University of Utah baseball team had its back against the wall this afternoon, and it persevered in winning back-to-back elimination games here on the third day of the Mountain West Conference Baseball Tournament. After topping one of the top collegiate hurlers from San Diego State, 1-0, the Utes returned for its second straight this afternoon by topping UNLV, 7-4.
The Utes (26-27 overall) have won more games in a single MWC Tournament this year than they have in any other year. The Utes are 3-1 at this MWC Championship. With today's wins, the Utes will play the loser of the No. 1 TCU-No.2 New Mexico game at Lupton Stadium tomorrow at 3 p.m. (CDT).
Utah owned the 3-1 lead over UNLV after four innings, but the Rebels trimmed it to 3-2 in the seventh. The Utes responded in the bottom of the seventh with three runs, and they owned the 6-2 lead after seven.
The Rebels tried to rally again in the eighth. They loaded the bases with one out, even getting the game-winning run on base. But UNLV could only post two runs on a pair of singles in that inning, and the resulting 6-4 deficit was as close as it would get. Utah responded in the eighth with another run to re-up its lead to final of three runs.
Bryn Card got the start on the hill for Utah, and he improves to 3-1 on the year. Card threw 6.1 innings, and he allowed eight hits and two earned runs. Card fanned three batters, and he didn't allow a single walk.
The Utes held the 13-11 advantage in hits. All nine Utah players took part in the hit parade, led by the two-hit efforts of Cody Guymon, Dustin Hennis, Austin Jones and Michael Beltran. Hennis led all Utah players, going 2-for-4 with three RBI. Hennis was also the hero in game one, plating the lone run on an RBI single in the third inning against San Diego State.
The difference in the second ball game was a powerful home run shot from Hennis in the seventh inning. With a strong, 20 mph breeze blowing in from the outfield, Hennis hit a powerful, wind-piercing drive over the fence in right-center field. Jones was on third, making it a two-run shot and giving Utah the 6-2 lead. Hennis' homer would plate the would-be game-tying and game-winning runs.
UNLV's Thomas Whitsett went 6.2 innings in tallying the loss. He falls to 2-6 on the year. He allowed nine hits, six earned runs and three walks. J.J. Sferra was the Rebels' top hitter. He had four of the team's 13 hits, going 4-for-5 with an RBI.