Another season has come and gone for the University of Utah baseball team who wrapped up its season this past weekend. The Utes were unable to get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, thus ending their year with a 27-24 overall record and 15-15 in the Pac-12. Utah finished fifth in the conference, tied with Cal and behind Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona.
Looking at conference action results, Utah was swept by Washington, Oregon State and UCLA and it lost two of three games to Stanford and Washington State. The Utes won the series against Oregon and Cal before going on to sweep Arizona, USC and Arizona State.
The Utes entered the season as the reigning Pac-12 Champs and with what felt like pressure to repeat, the team tried to diffuse that early in the Fall in their goal setting and daily talks according to head coach Bill Kinneberg. The main goal Utah had their eyes fixed on since the start of the season was not to necessarily clinch back-to-back conference titles, but it wanted to qualify for the postseason.
Although Utah was not able to reach its goal this time around, Kinneberg feels like his team was still able to take positive steps in the right direction.
“We did have a good season,” Kinneberg said. “We did accomplish a lot of things this year. We were over .500, we were .500 in Pac-12 play, which is a benchmark that is pretty good.”
There are positive notes to jot down from this season, but Kinneberg also looked on the flip side of things, and he explained that his team dropped multiple games this year by only one or two runs – 12 games to be exact. Those outcomes were tight contests where opportunities were missed. He has explained that all season long as something that is a part of a “fine line” that his team has battled with. He wants to see his team close out games when they are ahead and jump ahead of somebody late in games against a talented reliever.
“It’s that toughness, that competitiveness, that ability in those situations,” Kinneberg said. “You hope that you prepare them correctly and that they perform to their ability.”
Utah had lost several four-year starters and there were question marks regarding what the new faces on the team would be able to contribute this season, but freshmen like Oliver Dunn, Dominic Foscalina and Jacob Rebar were three Utes that Kinneberg said got a taste of what it’s like to play in the Pac-12. Playing college ball for the first time, Dunn was able to hold down second base most of the season while Foscalina helped in the outfield before getting hurt three weeks before the season ended. Rebar was pitching as the fourth starter, and he also made appearances in relief.
“The biggest thing for freshmen and for the young guys is to go through a year because it’s grinding, it’s hard, it’s demanding,” Kinneberg said. “They’ve never been through anything like this. They are going to be so much better next year starting from day one, knowing what’s going on, what practice is like, what games are like.”
Dallas Carroll, Ellis Kelly, Hunter Simmons, Max Schuman, Hunter Rodriguez, Dylan Drachler and Josh Rose have finished their time with the program so once again the incoming freshmen will have the opportunity to make some noise and show what they can bring to the table as many holes will be needing to be filled.
Looking back on the season, the wins, losses, achievements and disappointments, it wasn’t the end the Utes had in mind, but it was a year where improvements took place and lessons were learned, valuable lessons that can help push the team forward.