The regular season will come to an end this weekend for the University of Utah baseball team (24-24, 12-15 Pac-12) who will host Arizona State (23-29, 8-19 Pac-12). The action on the diamond begins on Friday and concludes Sunday with all three games beginning at 11:30 am MT.
The Sun Devils come into the contest having been swept last weekend at home to Arizona. Arizona State has one conference series win to their name that came against Washington State back in April when Arizona State pulled off the sweep. Looking specifically at the conference, the Sun Devils have prevented other Pac-12 teams from earning a sweep by taking at least one game out of the three. That happened against USC, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and Washington. This weekend, Utah will look to go for the sweep, which would be a crucial piece of the postseason puzzle that may or may not include Utah. Depending on what happens in this series, in the conference and around the country over the course of this weekend will determine all of that.
The last time the Utes were at home they swept USC, but when Utah went on the road to take on UCLA this past weekend, the Bruins did what Utah did to the Trojans the week before — swept them on their stomping grounds. With the Sun Devils coming into town, this is the final push Utah can make for a shot at the postseason. The chances of the Utes playing in the NCAA Regionals are slim at this point, but they are not giving up.
“I think it’s just trying to take one game at a time,” said third baseman Dallas Carroll. “We know it’s kind of a long shot as it is, but if we focus on game three of the series that’s not going to be where we want to be. We got to focus on Friday and take care of business then, and then move on to Saturday and take it one pitch at a time.”
Utah’s Jayson Rose (7-3), Riley Ottesen (4-4) and Josh Lapiana (3-6) are expected to start on the mound this weekend. Rose holds a 3.66 ERA and has thrown a total of 86 innings. He also has 76 strikeouts to his name, which ranks him seventh most in the conference, and his seven victories tie him for fourth place in the Pac-12. A 4.98 ERA belongs to Ottesen, as well as 61 strikeouts. Ottesen has pitched 86 2/3 innings, which puts him in seventh place in the league. He is also tied for seventh with two pickoffs. Lapiana who will start the final game of the regular season has a 5.23 ERA, and over the course of 72 1/3 innings pitched, has 56 strikeouts.
The Utes, ranked 69th in RPI, are tied for sixth place in the Pac-12 with the same 12-15 conference record that also belongs to Washington. Oregon State leads the rankings, followed by Stanford, UCLA, Arizona and California.
As the Utes return home for their final regular season series, which includes senior day on Saturday, head coach Bill Kinneberg knows he doesn’t need to say much to his team about this weekend.
“They know exactly what’s going on,” Kinneberg said. “We’ll get prepared, and play it just like any other series. We have to play well, we have to execute and be ready to play.”