SALT LAKE CITY – A botched pickoff throw helped lead to Air Force baseball’s 5-3 loss at Utah in its Mountain West Conference opener Friday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark. The Falcons dropped to 10-12, 0-1 on the season while the Utes improved to 9-9, 3-1.
Falcon starting pitcher Evan Abrecht (5-1) took his first loss of the season despite holding Utah to three earned runs. Abrecht went seven innings, allowing eight hits, while striking out five. Ben Bertelson pitched a scoreless eighth inning in relief.
Air Force had two errors on the day in cluding a costly one in the fourth. With the scored tied at 2-2, a botched pickoff attempt with the bases loaded led to two unearned runs in the fourth as Utah took a 4-2 lead.
The Utes would add a run in the seventh to go up 5-2.
The Falcons kept the game close at had gotten the game-tying run to the plate in the eighth. After chasing Ute starter Rick Anton (3-1) out of the game, the Falcons were unable to score off closer Tyler Wagner. Wagner shut the door on the Falcons by retiring the final five Falcon batters, four via strikeout, to end the game.
The Falcons pieced together runs in the first and second to lead 2-0 early on. Nathan Carter reached base with a double and Alex Bast singled him in for the first run. In the second, Garrett Custons drew a bases, loaded hit-by-pitch to score Patrick Lobo for the second run.
In the eighth, Carter got things going with a triple and would score on Bast’s ground out. After Vai Schierholtz doubled, Wagner came in for Anton and closed out the game.
Anton allowed 12 hits and three runs in 7.1 innings pitched. Air Force out-hit Utah 12-10 on the day. Michael Beltran, Shaun Cooper and Auston Shackleford led the Utes with two hits each.
Carter, Schierholtz, Lobo, Mattew Roberts and Parker Mayo had two hits each for the Falcons.
Game two of the three-game set is tomorrow at 1 p.m.