May 28, 2011
GRAND FORKS, North Dakota - Utah Valley University baseball captured its second straight Great West Conference tournament championship with a 5-1 win over Houston Baptist behind a strong day from its quartet of seniors.
Tournament MVP Chris Benson went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and a run and Zane Gray threw 7.0 shutout innings for the Wolverines, who finished the season with a record of 34-22. Kyle Beecher retired the only hitter he faced to finish the eighth inning and Brock Sargent threw a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two including Ryan Bacak for the final out.
"Our guys trust each other and we play that way. We've had guys step up and do what we've asked them to all year. They believe in themselves, they believe in each other and they believe in the philosophy of Utah Valley," said head coach Eric Madsen.
The game was scoreless until the fourth, when Cole McWhorter singled and then came in on a double by Benson, who later stole third and scored on a grounder by Goose Kallunki. The RBI by Kallunki gave him 60 on the year, tying him for the Great West Conference lead with Jarod Berggren of Northern Colorado.
In the seventh inning, McWhorter hit a sac-fly with the bases full to score Billy Burgess before Benson again doubled to left center to plate Willie Pratt and Kirk Doxey.
Houston Baptist (22-40) got an RBI double from Robbie Buller in the eighth for its only run.
In the top of the ninth, Sargent got Beau Warren to fly out before striking out Tanner Kalina and then Bacak to end it.
Utah Valley is now 8-0 all-time in Great West tournament games after finishing the regular season at 22-2. The Wolverines are 48-4 in the GWC regular season and 56-4 all-time against Great West schools over the conference's first two years of competition.
For Benson, the senior outfielder finishes his season with a .400 average and his career with a .381 batting average, 348 hits, 205 runs, 23 home runs, 74 doubles and 22 triples. He also reached the 100 hit total for the second straight season.
Gray won his fifth straight decision to finish at 5-1 on the year. Both Gray and Beecher finish their careers with 11 wins, ranking fifth all-time.
In addition to Benson, Burgess, Blake Krahenbuhl and Josh Swenson represented Utah Valley on the all-tournament team.
Chris Benson, Utah Valley (Most Valuable Player)
Billy Burgess, Utah Valley
Blake Krahenbuhl, Utah Valley
Josh Swenson, Utah Valley
Kolby Arnst, Houston Baptist
Collin Hetzler, Houston Baptist
Stephen Nikonchik, Houston Baptist
Beau Warren, Houston Baptist
Ryan Gerber, North Dakota
David Spies, North Dakota
Marcus Perez, NYIT
Effrey Valdez, NYIT
Casey Coy, Northern Colorado
Tripp Davis, NJIT