After dropping the first game of the season, the University of Utah baseball team quickly turned things around going on a five-game winning streak that included a 12-0 shutout game against Ohio State, but it has been a different story as of late. Positive outcomes like that are not being produced in conference play or the midweek games, and it’s causing problems.
Looking at midweek games alone, the Utes are 0-3 after falling to Nevada, Utah Valley and most recently BYU. Head coach Bill Kinneberg has expressed how difficult these games can be to play due to the fact that the team is just coming off a weekend series and getting ready for another one, but it is still no excuse.
The Utes have struggled offensively over the last few weeks and on Tuesday night – a matchup against in-state rivals – the team was shaky defensively on the mound.
The Utes have had several opportunities in multiple games over the past two weekends to drive in runs, but instead they do the opposite and leave runners stranded on base. It may seem like a simple problem to fix, and in Kinneberg’s words “it just takes one swing,” but the Utes’ bats seem to go cold when the team needs those key hits the most.
“We’ve put base runners on, but we haven’t got that key hit and that’s killing us right now,” Kinneberg said. “Instead of scoring two runs we’re leaving three guys on base. That’s got to change.”
Finding consistency on the offensive side would fix a lot of the problems that the Utes are going through. Consistency in hits, getting an early separation, playing a full nine innings and having guys come through would flip this team from being upside down to right side up.
“Those kind of things run in cycles,” Kinneberg said. “You just have to have that good at bat, that good approach at that time, and maybe a little luck as well, but we haven’t had that.”
Win the Last Three Innings
The last three innings have seemed to beat Utah down and bury it deeper with no chance of coming back. Against BYU, the Utes came within one run to tie the game heading into the ninth, but they let the game slip away from them quick as the Cougars scored four runs in that final inning.
Looking at conference play against Stanford in game three, the Utes were held scoreless in all innings but the fifth. The Cardinal scored two insurance runs in the seventh and one in the eighth to shut down the Utes.
Against Washington in the last game of the series, the Utes’ only run was in the fourth, but the Huskies added three in the seventh and one in the eighth. It goes to show just how crucial those last innings are and how important it is to be strong until the end.
“That’s something we stress is that we need to win the last three innings,” Kinneberg said. “That’s something that has to change for us. We got to get that reliever that comes in in a tight situation to get us quick outs and then in that seventh, eighth and ninth inning we need to capitalize on some possibilities of scoring some runs.”