It’s the last midweek game for the University of Utah baseball team (20-21, 9-12 Pac-12) as it heads to Provo for the first time this season to face No. 18 Brigham Young University (29-14, 17-4 WCC). The two ball clubs played earlier this season where the Cougars took the contest, 11-6. The second game was cancelled due to rain.
If Utah wins this matchup, the winner of the Deseret First Dual trophy will be determined by run differential. The Desert First Dual rivalry series has been going on for 10 years. Utah holds the overall victory, 26-6, and it holds wins in football, women’s basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s and women’s tennis. Baseball is the only sport seeking a win.
The Utes head into the game having won their last in-state victory against the Utah Valley Wolverines, but they recently dropped a conference series to the Washington State Cougars and a non-conference series to the UC Riverside Highlanders. BYU comes into the ballgame riding a nine-game winning streak.
Utah has 10 games remaining on its regular season schedule — two more series at home and one on the road — and getting a win against BYU might help give the team momentum to the finish line, which in turn may earn them a place at the NCAA Regionals.
“We want to win as many games as we can over the next 10 games and see where we land,” said head coach Bill Kinneberg.
In the past couple of weeks, the series losses that Utah has suffered have hurt the team in RPI points. Utah has taken some hard hits, and it must find their footing again in order to keep its postseason dreams alive. With the clock slowly, but surely winding down, the series against the Cougars seems to have more meaning than just who wins the rivalry game. This is a chance for Utah to get back up and running.
“We dropped 30 points in the RPI in two weeks,” Kinneberg said. “Can we make up 15 or 12 and then we’re on the board, and then who knows. If we’re in fourth place, or fifth place or even sixth place, we’re on the board and they have to decide whether to take us or not then.”
Kinneberg noted that losing 30 points means Utah is losing a lot of home games to teams whose RPI’s are over 100. Both UC Riverside and Washington State, who Utah recently hosted, were over that triple digit RPI number that affected Utah’s own RPI in return.
On the mound Tuesday evening, Utah freshman Chase Bauerle (1-1) is scheduled to make his first career start. Bauerle owns a 2.54 ERA, and he has struck out 19. Jordan Wood (4-0) is slated to pitch for BYU. Wood has a 5.06 ERA and 16 strikeouts.
Taking a look at the offense, Utah holds a .289 batting average that ranks it third in the Pac-12. BYU is hitting .322 as a team, which ranks them seventh best in the country. At the plate, Utah continues to be lead by Dallas Carroll and DaShawn Keirsey, Jr. who have both racked up a total of 62 hits each.
The final in-state rivalry showdown of the season between the Utes and Cougars gets underway Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. MT at Miller Park.