Frei’s Grand Slam Powers Utah Over Fresno State, 5-4
FRESNO, Calif. – Highlighted by Landon Frei's first career grand slam, a five-run second inning for Utah proved to be the difference as the Utes (9-2-1) staved off a Fresno State rally and hung on for a 5-4 win at Bob Bennett Stadium on Tuesday night.
Five different Utes had a hit on the night with multi-hit performances by Chase Anderson and Jayden Kiernan. TJ Clarkson extended his career-long hitting streak to eight straight games and Kai Roberts walked to push his reached base streak to eight straight games as well.
Ben Kibbe earned the victory (2-0) working in 4.1 innings of two-run relief, where Kibbe scattered five hits and struck out three. He did not allow a walk. Blake Whiting closed out the final two innings for his second save as a Ute.
Utah spotted the Bulldogs a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning, but answered with a five-spot in the second. Clarkson and Kiernan led off the frame with singles, then Alex Baeza loaded the bases with a walk. A wild pitch scored Clarkson and Matt Richardson reached on an error to load the bases again. Frei then stepped into the box and clubbed the 2-1 offering to left center field just below the Bob Bennett Stadium scoreboard. It gave Utah a 5-2 lead after two innings.
It stood as Frei's first career grand slam and second home run of the season. It was also the second grand slam for Utah on the year, following Roberts' feat on opening night at Loyola Marymount.
Fresno State would get back within 5-4 in the middle innings, claiming one run in both the fourth and fifth frames.
Whiting entered during a jam in the eighth that saw runners in scoring position with nobody out. He induced a flyout on the first pitch to Josh Lauck, then got back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning unharmed. It was a clutch display for the right-hander, coming on from the bullpen with the tying run just 90 feet away and the go-ahead run on second base.
Kiernan whacked a standup double in the top of the ninth that rolled to the wall in left center, giving the Utes potential for a much-needed insurance run. Frei hit a high fly ball that looked like it may again leave the ballpark, but the Bulldogs' right fielder ranged all the way back to the warning track for a loud out number three.
Fresno State reached the leadoff man in the bottom of the ninth, but Whiting retired the next three in a row to seal the win. It included an incredible leaping catch by Richardson on a liner to shortstop for the second out, then a game-ending strikeout for Whiting as he won an eight-pitch at bat.
Utah is next scheduled to host Washington in both teams' Pac-12 opening series, with game one slated for Friday, March 11 at 6 p.m. MT from Smith's Ballpark.
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