The last time the University of Utah baseball team (12-16, 3-9 Pac-12) played on its own diamond it won its conference home opener, and the Utes are looking to continue that success as they return home to Smith’s Ballpark for a three-game series against the California Bears (15-15, 7-5 Pac-12). All three games will be played at 11:30 am MT on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Game time had to be moved up to an earlier slot than normal because the Salt Lake Bees are also playing at home but in the evening. Although the time change is different, head coach Bill Kinneberg said they will make sure it isn’t a problem. No matter what the clock says, once the first pitch is thrown his guys have to be ready to go.
“It’s still nine innings. It’s still a baseball game. You still got to execute,” Kinneberg said.
Heading into the series, the Utes’ recently dropped all three games against the No. 1 Oregon State Beavers, and they were swept for the second time in Pac-12 play. It was a hard-fought series including a 16-inning game two where the Utes were able to rely heavily on Tanner Thomas and Chase Bauerle in relief. Both Utes pitched well and that helped Utah save the bullpen from getting overworked, which puts the team in a solid position with Cal coming into town. The starting pitching remains healthy, and going into this weekend Utah feels positive and ready about taking the mound. Jayson Rose, Riley Ottesen and Josh Lapiana are expected to start.
The Bears are coming off a midweek nonconference blowout loss to Saint Mary’s. Looking at conference play, Cal has swept both of its past two three-game league matchups against the Washington State Trojans and Arizona State Sun Devils. Earlier in the season though, they fell to the Oregon Ducks and got swept by the UCLA Bruins.
Looking at the Utah roster, one Ute that has wiggled his way into finding his name in the lineup is freshman Dominic Foscalina. With six games started in left field and three at DH, he is proving he can help both offensively and defensively. Foscalina is batting .286 and has three RBIs to his name.
“Dom’s done very well,” Kinneberg said. “He’s learning as we go, but he’s played a very good left field and he’s got some key hits for us. We’ll probably continue between him and [Chandler] Anderson out in left until somebody gets hot again and gets going.”
Utah has been strapped into a wild ride when it comes to conference contests, but the Utes know what it takes to slow down and gain control of things. With that being said, it is now a matter of Utah following through and executing what they know needs to be done.
“We have to make our breaks,” Kinneberg said. “We have to make our luck. All those things come together to win a tight baseball game…in this league, there’s going to be a lot of those games and we just need to keep pushing forward and make sure that we take advantage of every opportunity that we can get.”
As the Utes prepare to host Cal, their game plan remains strong, critical and straightforward.
“Our plan is to stay positive,” said right fielder Josh Rose. “[We’ll] focus on having good [at bats], good defense and throwing that right pitch. It’ll all work out in the end. We’ll get that break.”