It will be quite the feat to take down the number one team in the country, but the University of Utah baseball team (12-13, 3-6 Pac-12) is not shying away from the opportunity. The Utes will face the Oregon State Beavers (25-1, 9-0 Pac-12) on the road in a three-game series that will go underway on Friday at 5:30 p.m. PT. The action will continue Saturday at 1:30 p.m. PT before the weekend play wraps up with game three Sunday at 1 p.m. PT.
“We’re playing the best team in the nation,” said head coach Bill Kinneberg. “It’ll be a heck of a challenge — a heck of an opportunity for us. It’s a really tough place to play. We’ll let it hang out and see what happens, but we’ll be ready.”
The Utes head into the matchup with their first conference series win under their belt. Utah recently defeated the Oregon Ducks after taking the last two games of the three-game series. As for the Beavers, they are currently on a 20-game win streak with their most recent victory coming against Portland, and they recent swept Stanford on the road. Although the Utes have a chance to beat the number one team, put an end to an incredible streak and improve their own record, they aren’t looking at this game any differently than the others.
“We can handle them,” said infielder Wade Gulden. “We’re just as talented, and it’s just going to be whatever team comes in there and plays better honestly.”
Utah had been struggling before the Oregon series win, but this game against the Beavers feels like it is coming at just the right time for the Utes. Utah seemed to figure out what was not working, and it made some adjustments over the past weekend. Not getting discouraged and staying positive no matter what is happening on the field is something that helped this Utah team turn things around.
“As an offense, it’s going to be about putting together quality at bats and picking each other up,” Gulden said. “That was a big point this [past] weekend.”
Utah is currently third in the conference in batting average at .290 while Oregon State holds a 1.73 ERA — leading the NCAA. Third baseman Dallas Carroll continues to swing well for Utah as he is batting .404 on the season — leading the Pac-12.
Slated to take the mound this weekend is Jayson Rose (3-2) who has 38 strikeouts to his name. He not only leads the Utes with that number, but that puts him in seventh place in the conference. Riley Ottesen (4-1) is coming off a win in game two against Oregon. Ottesen is tied for sixth place in the conference in wins, and he is expected to pitch Saturday. Josh Lapiana (2-3) will close things out on Sunday. The lefty had an impressive performance against Oregon, setting a career-high nine strikeouts en route to the victory. Both Ottesen and Lapiana each have 31 strikeouts.
So much history is involved for the Beavers this season as they are off to the best start in program history, but the records and streaks will not affect how the Utes come out to play this weekend.
As Gulden would say, the key for the Utes is to “just stick to Utah baseball.”