On Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. MT, the University of Utah baseball team (14-17, 5-10 Pac-12) will host the Brigham Young Cougars (20-13, 9-3 WCC) for the second time this season. The Utes are looking to get even with their in-state rival after dropping the first matchup earlier in the season, 11-6. The two teams from across the Valley will meet at Smith’s Ballpark for one last time this season before the Utes travel to Provo in May.
Utah heads into the contest having just won a conference series against the California Golden Bears where they took two of the three games. With losses to the Nevada Wolf Pack, Utah Valley University Wolverines and the Cougars, Utah remains winless in midweek face-offs. The team from down south recently took the last two of three games to win its series against the Pepperdine Waves. BYU has also taken on the Wolverines where it clinched the win.
“I think the biggest thing is to go into it with a clear mind,” said left fielder Dominic Foscalina. “[We] just [have to] act like this is the first midweek game we’ve had.”
It was a battle the last time the Utes and Cougs met under the bright lights. BYU took a quick lead in the first inning and never let it go. Utah came within one run to tie the ballgame up in the bottom of the fifth, but it gave up opportunities to drive in runs in the late innings. Pulling ahead in the ninth, the Cougars added four runs to run away with the game.
“Last time I know we left a lot of guys on base,” said second baseman Oliver Dunn. “That’s what it’ll just come down to offensively, making sure we get the hits when we need them. Clutch situations, guys on base, got to drive them in at the end of the day.”
Stranding fourteen runners on base throughout nine innings — BYU left eight on base — was one area that Utah struggled with and hopes to improve. Not capitalizing and not getting key hits has held the Utes up, and it has been the troubling story of the season when it comes to why the team has dropped multiple games.
Another headline from the Utes and Cougars’ last outing was what went down on the mound. The last time Jacob Rebar pitched was in this meeting, but it was a quick in and out appearance where the freshman got just one out before being pulled. This time around, Josh Lapiana (2-4) is projected to start the midweek game for Utah. Lapiana has a 4.47 ERA, and he has 21 strikeouts.
Utah is hitting .286 on the season, putting them in third place in the conference. The team will look to returners like Dallas Carroll, who is batting .389 and DaShawn Keirsey, Jr., who is batting .336 and is on a 10-game hitting streak, to get the Utah offense going against the Cougars.
Last time the two competitors met, Utah learned a few lessons that night the hard way, but the Utes are now out for revenge, and they are ready to get back to business on the field.
“We just need to stick with what we’ve been doing the last two weekends,” Dunn said. “We’ve been playing a lot of good baseball. [We need to] make sure we show up ready to go. It is a midweek game, but we got to make sure we’re ready. It’s BYU, it’s a rivalry game, lot of fun. Just got to make sure we play our game.”