Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah –March 9, Southern Utah was unable to pick up a win in its first set of home games of the season as visiting Utah Valley took both ends of Friday’s doubleheader by scores of 12-5 and 3-1 to drop the Thunderbirds to a 2-11 start on the year. With the pair of victories UVU doubled its previous win total to improve to 4-8.
“We were hoping to get some things worked out playing at home for the first time today, but it didn’t happen,” said SUU coach David Eldredge. “Every day there’s something different that costs us the game.”
The Wolverines got on the board early in the opener after an error allowed leadoff batter Jake Richenbach to reach first and an RBI triple hit by Sean Moysh in the next at bat led to the game’s first run.
The Thunderbirds came back with three runs in the second to take a two-run lead. Justin Neuhart drew a two-out walk in the inning, which was followed by a single from Taggart Lunceford and another walk to load the bases. Left fielder Ronnie Burton Jr. then drove a ball to deep right center field for a bases clearing double that put SUU out in front 3-1. Southern Utah would add another run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single hit down the left field line by David Ricker to extend its advantage to three runs with the score at 4-1.
The second half of the game belonged to Utah Valley however as a three-run home run off the bat of Austin Heaps started a string of 11 straight runs for the Wolverines over the final five innings. UVU stretched the margin to 12-4 before Southern Utah was able to get one back in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Bo Cuthbertson to set the final count at 14-5 in favor of the Wolverines.
SUU starter Kelsey Outram performed well below the level he has been at in his prior appearances this season, giving up six earned runs over six innings to fall to 0-3. UVU reliever Preston Olson spread four hits over five innings and allowed just one run to earn the win, improving his mark to 4-1.
“Kelsey has been one of the best parts of our team this year, but he just wasn’t on today,” explained Eldredge.
The backend of the doubleheader developed into a defensive battle in contrast with the shootout that took place earlier in the day. During the first inning it appeared that Southern Utah was in position to take another early advantage, after the Thunderbirds loaded the bases on a pair of singles from Burton and Chaisson Low followed by a base on balls for Marcus Romero, but in the end they were only able to record a single score in the frame when Bryson Kenolio hit a sac fly to center to plate a run.
The score would remain 1-0 through the first five frames, as starter Justin Neubauer didn’t even allow a baserunner in the first three. The junior lefty ended up going seven innings for Southern Utah, giving up just four hits and one earned run while recording four strikeouts. The lone run came in the top of the sixth when Moysh singled through the right side to drive in a run and even the score at 1-1.
Moysh later gave Utah Valley the lead with an RBI triple in the eighth. The UVU outfielder drove a pitch to shallow left, where Burton made a diving attempting at a catch, but the ball bounced just past his outstretched glove allowing the go-ahead run to score from first. The Wolverines then added another run on a sacrifice fly to set the final score at 3-1.
Chase Rezac (1-2) took the loss for Southern Utah after allowing two runs in two innings of relief. Jeff Gendlek (1-3) picked up his first win of the year for Utah Valley after allowing just one run while tossing a complete game.
Thunderbird outfielder Ronnie Burton Jr. had the most successful day at the plate for SUU, going 3-for-7 with a double and three RBI. Justin Neuhart and Taggart Lunceford each recorded a pair of hits for Southern Utah. Utah Valley got five RBI on three hits from DH Austin Heaps in the first game while Sean Moysh went 4-for-9 with two runs and four RBI on the day for the Wolverines.
“We are struggling right now, but we’re seeing spots of what this team can be,” commented Eldredge. “We just haven’t put it all together yet.”
The two teams will meet in the series finale on Saturday at 12 p.m.