While fans may have forgotten what happened the last time the Utes and Cougars stepped on the diamond, Utah players certainly have not.
In their last contest against in-state rival BYU, the Utes got pummeled down in Provo, 20-3.
With the loss still fresh in its mind, Utah hopes to use the last game as motivation to play better when it hosts the Cougars tonight at Smith’s Ballpark.
“It was terrible,” said sophomore Kody Davis of the first matchup. “It left a bad taste in our mouths, which we still have.”
With the game occurring over 20 days ago, the Utes still have no explanation as to why they lost so badly at the hands of their rivals. The players summed it up as a day where nothing went right and everything went wrong. Head coach Bill Kinneberg said they let BYU dictate the game and that the Utes need to go back to playing Utah baseball.
“We just didn’t play our game,” he said. “We weren’t ready. We made some errors, and we didn’t pitch very well, and the game got out of hand early. It’s a new day tomorrow, and we’ll go at it just like any other game.”
Last time against BYU, Utah only gathered six hits, and the offensive struggles have only gotten worse since. On their most recent road trip to Oregon, the Utes were only able to muster up 10 hits in three games played. Despite the shortcomings, Kinneberg knows it’s just a matter of time before the bats come alive.
“Hitting is a little bit contagious,” Kinneberg said. “If you score that first run, you get a little confidence as a team and you keep going. At some point, we are going to get that key base hit that is going to catapult us in.”
Although the runs have been hard to come by, Utah has never rolled over and died. Senior TJ Bennett said this team has never stopped competing and the recent troubles are just a part of the game.
“To me, it’s part of baseball,” he said. “It’s a tough sport. It’s tough to hit. Right now, we’re all going through the same thing at the same time. If one or two of the guys are struggling, then the others are going to pick them up … adversity is going to reveal our character.”
Rivalry games are always action-packed, and Utah is not just excited to play this game, but is both positive and confident. Even though their season has not gone exactly the way they’ve planned, the Utes believe this year is not lost by any means, realizing every game can be the start of a winning streak.
Looking in the other dugout, Utah is catching the Cougars at a good time. BYU is coming into Salt Lake City with an 8-17 record, including losing nine of their last 10.
The Utes, however, will not take this team lightly, regardless of their recent struggles.
“Any team is dangerous,” Kinneberg said. “It’s a new game. They lost two-of-three this weekend, but they’re in the same boat where they’re fighting for their lives in conference.”
The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. MST.