After winning a conference series to the California Golden Bears and playing half an inning against the Brigham Young Cougars — it was cancelled due to rain — the University of Utah baseball team (14-17, 5-10 Pac-12) will get back on the road and travel to Arizona to take on the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (26-9, 9-6 Pac-12). The three-game series is scheduled to begin on Thursday at 7 p.m. MT, and it will continue on Friday at 8 p.m. MT before the weekend action wraps up Saturday at 7 p.m. MT at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona comes in as winners of its past three conference contests against the Oregon Ducks, Washington State Cougars and University of Southern California Trojans — who it swept. The Cats are coming off a powerful game-three offensive performance where they nailed 23 hits and drilled 18 runs onto the scoreboard. Head coach Bill Kinneberg believes this Arizona team that his Utes are about to face is one of the best offensive teams they will play all year.
“They’re really well balanced,” Kinneberg said. “We’re going to have to play tremendous defense to make sure we don’t give them free runs, and that’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Breaking down the Utah defense, both center fielder DaShawn Keirsey, Jr. and right fielder Josh Rose have started every game this season. The two have done a solid job holding down a portion of the outfield while left field has not had one consistent starter throughout the season. Chandler Anderson and Dominic Foscalina have each seen time as a starter in left and as a freshman Foscalina is showing he can hang with the big boys — exactly what the outfield needs to continue meshing together.
Looking at the infield, third baseman Dallas Carroll and first baseman Hunter Simmons have experience to fall back on when it comes to them handling the corners. Carroll is in his fourth season at third, and Simmons has started every game at first. With the importance of playing outstanding defense this weekend, these seniors should play a big role on that side of the ball. Starting every game but one at second base, freshman Oliver Dunn will also be looked upon to own his position and hold things down like he has done so far this year.
Pitching will be crucial for the Utes as they will be going up against the No. 3 team in the country in terms of batting average. Arizona also has two Cats ranked in the top 10 in batting average sitting at .418 and .415. The Wildcats are hitting .332 on the season while Utah holds a .286 batting average.
Jayson Rose (4-2), Riley Ottesen (4-1) and Josh Lapiana (2-4) are expected to start on the mound.
“They just got to pitch their games and compete as well as they can,” Kinneberg said. “Arizona is going to score, we’re going to have to punch back and make sure we do the same.”
The Wildcats are not the only ones to have positive things going for them offensively. Utah also has powerful hitters, and one of those Utes is Carroll, who is ranked in the top-five in multiple categories in the conference in areas like batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage and hits per game to name a few. Getting runners on base before Carroll steps up to the plate is key for the Utah offense, and that is no different this weekend. Keirsey Jr. is also making an impact as he is batting .336, and that puts him right below Carroll. Leading off the Utah batting order, he has picked up at least one hit in all of Utah’s last 10 games. His speed and ability to get on base are incredibly valuable.
If the Utes are able to get quality at bats and play relentless, knockout defense the Utes could get an upset victory in Tucson, Ariz.