Utah defeated the defending national champion UCLA over the weekend — in one game, at least.
The Utes dropped two of the three games played against the Bruins, but provided the fans in attendance at Smith’s Ballpark with quality games, even stealing game two on Friday. Head coach Bill Kinneberg was happy with the victory against the favored UCLA squad, but disappointed his team couldn’t grab the series win.
“We played really well on Thursday night, had a chance to win and kind of gave that one up,” he said. “We had a really good ball game coming back against a good team yesterday. I didn’t feel we played very well today and that was disappointing.”
Game one on Thursday evening proved to be a thriller. Utah held a lead heading into the final innings before the Bruins finally broke through, winning the game 3-1. The story of the matchup, however, was the duel between the pitchers.
As expected, James Kaprielian, UCLA’s top ace, pitched well while holding the Utes to only one run the whole game, but the big surprise came from Ute pitcher, Dalton Carroll. He pitched 7 and one-third innings while allowing only one unearned run on three hits. In addition to that, Carroll recorded a career-high nine strikeouts.
Despite the stellar pitching effort, the Utes continued to struggle at the plate. The team mustered only six hits on the day, led by sophomores Cody Scaggari and Wyler Smith who recorded two hits each.
Friday’s game was exactly what Utah needed as a confidence boost. The team exploded at the plate, recording 16 hits in a come-from-behind victory, 8-6. The 16-hit mark was a season high for the Utes.
Down 5-1 in the fifth inning, the Utes’ bats came alive, and they racked up seven hits in that inning alone. Utah scored seven runs in that inning, its highest total of any inning played thus far in the season. Leading the way was Scaggari, who recorded Utah’s second home run of the season in the third inning, and freshman Hunter Simmons as each went 3-for-4 at the plate.
The victory was great for team morale and confidence as the players were pleased with the win, but not exactly content.
“I mean, I’m happy about the win last night, but at the same time it’s all about winning,” Scaggari said. “You can’t be satisfied with one out of three when you’re trying to win a series.”
With that mindset, the Utes were heading into the final game with an added fire. Unfortunately for Utah, the series finale brought the team back down to earth as the offensive struggles were welcomed back. In addition to the problems at the plate, a bad inning from the pitching staff caused the game to break wide open.
With the game tied at one apiece heading into the third inning, UCLA recorded four runs to take a 5-1 lead. After that, the Bruins never looked back, cruising to an easy 7-3 win.
The Utes recorded just six hits on the day while surrendering 14 to UCLA. Senior Zach Adams got the start on the bump, but only pitched four innings as he gave up five runs on 10 hits. Adams was later replaced by freshman Dylan Drachler, who recorded four strikeouts but gave up two more insurance runs in the seventh inning.
With little time to rest, Utah will be back on the diamond Tuesday evening when it travels to Orem to take on UVU. The game is scheduled to 6 p.m. MT.