CEDAR CITY, Utah - March 17 - Southern Utah baseball used a five-run fifth inning to take the lead and then held onto the advantage through the rest of the contest to secure the 6-4 victory over the University of Utah on Tuesday afternoon. The win moves the T-Birds to 9-7 on the year while the Utes drop to 7-9.
SUU scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first as Ray Wright led off the inning with a double and then advanced to third on a single by Keli'i Zablan in the next at bat. Wright crossed the dish as Bucky Aona recorded a sacrifice fly to make the score 1-0 in favor of the Thunderbirds.
Utah answered the run in the top of the third on a sacrifice fly and then took the lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI double. Two more runs scored for the Utes in the top of the fifth and a pair of RBI singles to make the game 4-1 in favor of the away team. The lead could have been more, but a leaping grab over the fence for the final out of the fifth inning by Nick Freitas robbed Utah's Cooper Blanc of a home run with men on the corners. Freitas' play was not the only defensive highlight for the SUU outfield during the game, as Wright charged on a ball during the seventh inning to make a shoestring catch and then doubled up the man on first to end the frame.
Southern Utah bats came to life in the bottom of the fifth as freshman Marcus Romero led off the inning with a home run over the wall in left center. Colby Ford capitalized on his single by scoring on an RBI ground ball, following a double steal that advanced him to third. Freitas' RBI double tied the score at 4-4 as Wright scored from third while Chester Wilson recorded the two-run single that gave the Thunderbirds the 6-4 lead in the next at bat.
SUU starter Alec Reichle kept Utah batters at bay throughout the afternoon, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits and two walks while recording two strikeouts. Both outs came in the sixth inning with his second strikeout critical as Utah's C.J. Cron went down swinging with the bases loaded.
Southern Utah's bullpen closed out the game for the T-Birds as James Crockett, Jacob Noyes and Zablan combined to allow only two hits and two walks while recording two strikeouts. Zablan's strikeout in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded preserved the victory for the Thunderbirds and gave the senior his first save of the season.
The T-Birds will now enjoy a few days of spring break before heading on a coast-to-coast road trip that will include a three-game set in Georgia against Kennesaw State this weekend and end in California following a two-game series with San Diego State on Monday and Tuesday.