Only two more three-game home series remain on the schedule for the University of Utah baseball team (21-21, 9-12 Pac-12), and they will cross one of those off after this weekend. The Utes will host the University of Southern California (19-25, 6-15 Pac-12) on Saturday through Monday at Smith’s Ballpark. First pitch for game one is set for 11:30 am MT. The rest of the games will take place in the evening with game two at 7 p.m. MT and the final contest at 6 p.m. MT.
Utah is coming off a 7-6, 13 inning, in-state rivalry victory over BYU. The Utes took an early lead putting up two runs, but the game went back and forth until both teams tied it up at 6-6. Utah put up the final run in the 13th inning to call it a ballgame. 14 hits on the night belonged to the Utes as they outhit the Cougars by two more hits. 17 runners were left on base for Utah as it could not take the late rally lead after stranding runners in the eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th innings.
USC heads into the weekend action after having just been swept by UCLA, and shutout in both games one and two. The Trojans were on the road the week before where they took one game away from No. 1 Oregon State in an extra inning.
Before the matchup between the Utes and Cougars, Utah was at home for two weekends in a row hosting Washington State and UC Riverside. Utah dropped both series after picking up the first win but falling short in games two and three.
At home as of late, Utah has not been able to get the job completely done. Head coach Bill Kinneberg believes his team needs to play the same way it did against the then ranked No. 7 team in the country.
“Our intensity or our mental game, whatever it is has to be as it was in Tucson when we’re playing at home and doing those things,” Kinneberg said. “We have to make sure that our level of intensity is where it needs to be.”
Against Arizona, earlier this season Utah hunkered down and pulled off the upset and a sweep. In game one, the Utes scored in seven of the nine total innings, and five of those innings had more than one runner make it home. Utah took game two in the latter innings, and the finale featured an offense that was bulldozing past the competition after putting up the first runs before running away with the lead.
The series against Arizona was eye-opening for many reasons. With the defeat last weekend against UC Riverside, Kinneberg felt like at times his team was playing like it should, and then he felt like it would play average and then not play at the level he knew it could. Against Arizona, Utah fought until the end, as well as on Tuesday evening against BYU, and that is huge to seeing success according to Kinneberg.
“We just have to play the complete game from here on out,” Kinneberg said.
The push to the postseason is now, and although as of late, while playing at home has not produced the results Utah has hoped for – that includes losing 30 points in the RPI over the past two weekends at home – the Utes are keeping their heads up.
“You’re always hopeful and optimistic,” Kinneberg said. “So that’s how we’re going about it.”