Baseball: Utes welcome Arizona to Salt Lake City in Pac-12 home opener

3-3 baseball Chris Samuels

The Utah baseball team (7-14, 4-2 in Pac-12) will return to Smith’s Ballpark on Friday night to host the Arizona Wildcats (17-8, 3-3 in Pac-12) in their conference home opener. The Utes are coming off a tough loss on Wednesday night to in-state opponent UVU, whereas the Wildcats split their two-game series earlier this week against UC Riverside.

While the finish from Wednesday’s game was surely disappointing for the Utes, head coach Bill Kinneberg claimed there was no time for his team to dwell on it with Arizona coming to town just two days later.

“We need to put this one away, learn from it, and be back at practice [on Thursday] to prepare for [Friday’s game],” Kinneberg said following the loss to UVU.

After winning just three conference series in the first four years in the conference, the Utes have won two consecutive series against Pac-12 opponents this season after defeating Oregon and Arizona State in the previous two weekends, respectively.

Utah is currently tied for first in the conference in double plays (23) and is tied for third-fewest home runs allowed (8). Individual statistical leaders for the Utes include Jayson Rose, second in Pac-12 with 45 strikeouts, and Kody Davis, tied for third in conference with six steals. Utah’s pitching staff will look to silence a solid Arizona batting lineup that is currently ranked second in the Pac-12 in team batting average.

Rose will start on the mound on Friday night, where he is 3-2 on the season with a 2.95 ERA and 45 strikeouts. A 2015 Pac-12 honorable mention, Rose has won back-to-back starts for the Utes on the road against conference opponents. JC Cloney (3-1, 2.68 ERA, 29 K’s) is the projected starter for the Wildcats.

Utah’s third baseman Dallas Carroll (.288 batting average) will look to continue his success at the plate after recording a hit in 11 of Utah’s previous 13 games. Carroll went 4-for-5 on Wednesday night against the Wolverines and leads the team with 23 hits, and is tied for the team high is RBI’s (10) and triples (2).

He’s hoping for his teammates to follow suit on Friday.

“We need to start strong against Arizona. I know we are going to come out and play the best we can,” Carroll said.

Freshmen have gained important experience through these first few weeks, and one player who has shined has been DaShawn Keirsey, Jr. In Keirsey, Jr.’s first year at Utah, he currently leads the team in batting average (.333) and is tied for second in hits (22). Keirsey, Jr. has also been aggressive on the base pads, racking up four steals in five attempts in the team’s first twenty games.

Friday’s first pitch will be at 6 p.m. MT as Utah will attempt to win their third straight conference series.