May 30, 2009

Michael Beltran's two-out RBI single through the left side scored Rick Cornu from second base with the game-winning run as fourth-seeded Utah eliminated second-seeded Georgia Southern with an 11-10 victory on Saturday afternoon in game three of the 2009 NCAA Baseball Regionals at Goodwin Field in front of 1,232 fans.

The Utes (27-30 overall), who were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1960, won their first NCAA tournament game since downing Colorado State College (now Northern Colorado) by a 24-3 count that season. They advance to face the loser of Saturday's winner's bracket game against Cal State Fullerton and Gonzaga in another elimination game on Sunday at 2 p.m.

The Eagles finished their regular season at 42-17 overall.

Cornu was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the ninth to start the rally for Utah and he advanced to second on a passed ball. After a strikeout for the second out of the inning put Georgia Southern just one out away from forcing extra innings, Beltran took the first pitch he saw from Charles Matthews (2-1) to left field, plating the winning run and keeping the Utes' season alive.

Greg Krause (3-4) earned the win in relief for Utah, allowing an unearned run on no hits, walking one and striking out one in 1 1/3 innings of work.

After being smothered by the host Titans on Friday night by an 18-2 count, Utah rallied back from a five-run deficit with a big eighth inning, sending 10 batters to plate and scoring six runs to take its first lead of the ballgame.

An infield single by Devin Walker and a one-out double by Cornu doubled to put two in scoring position for Cooper Blanc, who laced a single to right centerfield to score two and make it 9-6. After a wild pitch moved Blanc into scoring position, Beltran reached on an error allowing Blanc to scoot home and make it a 9-7 contest.

Corey Shimada singled to put runners on the corners for Tyler Yagi, who placed a perfect bunt single to second base, driving home Beltran to make it 9-8. Nick Kuroczko followed with a single back through the box to score Shimada to tie the score and, after a pitching change, C.J. Cron lifted a fly ball into right field, deep enough to score Yagi for the 10-9 lead.

Georgia Southern did not go quietly, however, tying the game back up in its half of the ninth as Eric Phillips walked to lead off the inning and pinch runner Jake Ware moved to second when Brian Pierce's sac bunt was misplayed by the Utes' pitcher to put two on.

Another successful sacrifice by Kevin Bowles moved both runners into scoring position for Ty Wright, whose liner to right field was deep enough to score Ware and make it 10-10.

The Eagles put a stranglehold on the contest early, scoring three in the first on RBI hits by Griffin Benedict (double) and Phillip Porter (single) and a sac fly by A.J. Wirnsberger for the 3-0 lead. A home run by Benedict in the second with two outs gave GSU a 4-0 lead before Utah broke onto the scoreboard in its half of the third on a home run by Shimada.

Georgia Southern responded with three more in the fourth on an error and RBI hits by Phillips (double) and Pierce (single) to build a seemingly insurmountable 7-1 lead.

The Utes continued to chip away with single runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh - the latter two coming on home runs by Cron and Blanc - setting the stage for the team's dramatic rally.

Blanc finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBI to pace the offense while Yagi also finished with three hits to lead a 16-hit Utah attack. Wright, who added a two-run home run in the seventh, and Kyle Blackburn also finished with three hits to lead the Eagles' offense.