SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The University of Utah baseball team had not hit a home run in any of its first 26 games this season. TJ Bennett ended that drought with an eighth-inning grand slam to key the Utes to a 7-3 victory over visiting Arizona on Friday afternoon at Smith’s Ballpark.
Bennett’s blast spoiled what had been a strong outing for starter James Farris before the eighth inning. However, the senior right-hander ran into trouble when Braden Anderson doubled and Cody Scaggari was hit by a pitch to open the decisive frame.
After Kody Davis advanced the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position, the Wildcats elected to intentionally walk Max Schuman, which loaded the bases. That brought Bennett, a left-handed hitter, to the plate and he lined an 0-2 pitch over the left field fence for his third career home run.
Farris (L, 4-3) took the loss with six runs allowed on six hits and a walk over 7.1 innings. He struck out six, picking up his 200th career strikeout in the second inning.
Utah (10-17, 1-9 Pac-12) twice fought back from one-run deficits as it snapped its winless streak in conference play.
Arizona (12-19, 2-8 Pac-12) took the initial lead with a run in the top of the fourth. Scott Kingery, who was 2-for-3 with a walk, opened the frame with a single and later moved to second on Kevin Newman’s double. Trent Gilbert followed with a sacrifice fly.
The opportunistic Utes answered with a pair of runs on a couple two-out base hits. Scaggari was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and scored on Bennett’s triple to centerfield. Bennett, who went 2-for-4 with five RBI and two runs scored, then came home on Wyler Smith’s double down the right field line.
Arizona regained the lead in the home half of the seventh when Michael Hoard launched his first career home run over the wall in right-centerfield.
Utah starter Michael Watrous left the game with his team trailing, 3-2, after seven innings. The righty struck out seven and walked one while allowing five hits.
Reliever Tanner Banks wiggled out of a jam in the top of the eighth, stranding two Wildcats when Newman softly grounded out. Banks (W, 2-5) would earn the win as the Utes scored five runs in the home half of the frame.
After Bennett’s grand slam, Farris was replaced by Tyler Parmenter, who gave up a run on one hit, which set the score at its final, 7-3.
Nick Green worked a perfect ninth for the Utes, to preserve the win.
The teams continue the three-game series Saturday at noon (MDT). A live radio broadcast can be heard on 1290 AM in Tucson, Ariz., with Brian Jeffries calling the action.