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SALT LAKE CITY – Before Tuesday night’s rivalry game, BYU outfielder Danny Gelalich was yet to hit his first home run as a Cougar. The sophomore picked a good time to finally send one over the fences, blasting a grand slam just inside the right field foul line to break a 2-2 tie and give his team the lead.
“I didn’t think it was gonna quite get out – I thought for sure a sac fly,” Gelalich said after the game. “I was praying, trying to blow it fair.”
Even BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said he thought Gelalich’s blast would have ended up as a sacrifice fly, if not a foul ball. “I wanted that ball to stay fair more than I’ve wanted any ball to stay fair in my life,” Littlewood said.
Both Littlewood and Gelalich also said it made it even better that the grand slam came in this situation, against their rival. “It’s definitely a lot sweeter when it’s against the Utes, in that big situation,” Gelalich said. “It’s always fun to come out and play well against these guys. They always give us a big fight.”
Senior outfielder Brock Hale got the scoring started for the Cougars early. An RBI double brought Brian Hsu home to give BYU a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Utah responded quickly, however, thanks to an RBI fly out off the bad of Oliver Dunn. Dunn’s RBI brought Briley Knight home for the Utes and tied the game at 1-1.
The score remained tied until the bottom of the seventh inning. A Shea Kramer RBI double brought Zack Moeller across home plate and gave the Utes their first lead of the game, 2-1.
The lead didn’t last long, as the Cougars’ bats finally came to life in the top of the eighth inning.
Casey Jacobsen started the scoring for the Cougars, striking an RBI single to right field, bringing Jackson Cluff home to tie the game at 2-2. Jacobsen wouldn’t remain on base for long, as Gelalich’s blast to right field brought him, Zack Peterson, and Mitch McIntyre home for a 6-2 Cougar lead.
Cluff, who was just named a Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week and West Coast Conference Player of the Week, also showed why he was deserving of that recognition in the bottom of the eighth inning. The sophomore shortstop made one of the best defensive plays of the game, scooping up a ground ball just behind second base and tossing it over to first base for an out.
Along with his defensive abilities, Cluff leads the Cougars in multiple categories offensively, including batting average, hits, runs, RBIs, doubles and stolen bases.
The Utes would score one run in the eighth to cut the Cougar lead to three runs, but a pair of home runs from Hale and McIntyre put the game out of reach, helping the Cougars to a 10-3 win.
“That’s been our team this year,” Littlewood said. “Different guys step up every night.”
Tuesday's win gave the Cougars a 1-1 split in the season series with the Utes, who won the first match-up last month. “It doesn’t matter what kind of a season we’re having, or what kind of a season they’re having, we know it’s gonna be a good game,” Gelalich said.
BYU improves to 34-14 on the season with the win, while Utah falls to 12-32. The Utes will remain at home this weekend for a three-game series against Washington State, while the Cougars will travel to California for their final series of the season against Santa Clara. With a sweep over the Broncos, the Cougars could secure the regular season title in the West Coast Conference and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.