FULLERTON, Calif.—Utah has been the other side of games like this all season long. Utes coach Bill Kinneberg smiled in the post-game press conference today when a reporter described his team as "schizophrenic."
"There’s no doubt about that," Kinneberg said. "We play lights-out for seven innings, then in the eighth inning we give up five or six, boot some balls or somehow make a mistake and other teams have capitalized."
Today, the Utes were the team that capitalized. Utah erased a five-run deficit against Georgia Southern with six runs in the eighth to take the lead, only to see the Eagles tie the game in the top of the ninth. But the Utes responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame to steal an 11-10 win.
The comeback actually began much earlier than the six-run eighth. Utah trailed 7-0 with two outs and two on in the Georgia Southern fourth when Kinneberg summoned lefthander Stephen Streich from the bullpen. Streich induced an inning-ending force, then sprinted back to the dugout to rally the troops.
"For the first few innings, everyone was kind of down," Utah center fielder Cooper Blanc said. "Streich got on the mound, and when he came to dugout, he started screaming at us, ‘Hey, this could be our last game of the year. You could be sitting around summer ball all summer.’"
The Utes slowly began chipping away at the deficit, scoring single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh before exploding in the eighth against Eagles closer Kyle Kamppi on six singles, an error and a sacrifice fly.
"We did a lot of things wrong," Georgia Southern senior catcher Griffin Benedict said. "We made a couple bad plays defensively, myself included. Pitching-wise, I think early on we did a good enough job, obviously out of the bullpen we didn’t really do a good job. When we had an opportunity to put runners on base and score late in the game, we didn’t do it. And in the end when we had a chance to put a team away, we couldn’t do it. So we had a lot of opportunities lost."
Blanc, who went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs, was just glad his team took advantage of its opportunities this time.
"It was our turn, our turn to be on the side that got the winning hit or the big pitch," Blanc said. "It just felt good for it to happen right now. In a regional, it just felt good to finally be on the right side."
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