Utah Baseball Recap
Many will look at the 2019 baseball season as one to be forgotten for the Utah baseball team. Coming off of a 16-33 (6-24) 10th place in the Pac-12 showing, many people may even take this season at face value as a failure.
What comes with the bad is also a lot of good. The freshman presence of players like Briley Knight, Zac McCleve and Isaac Deveaux help the future look bright for Utah baseball. Oliver Dunn displayed a showcase season with unbelievable consistency at the plate, possibly setting him up for a future in Major League Baseball. Zack Moeller, coming back from a medical redshirt season, combined with Erick Migueles created back-to-back power bats in the lineup. Finishing off with strong seasons are guys like Shea Kramer, Matt Richardson and Chase Fernlund, middle classmen who will be able to lead the Utes in the next couple of seasons. One thing that those who watched the Utes consistently this season know for sure is that the team is in good hands for the next few years.
Coach Bill Kinneberg said regarding the season, “Wins and losses, it’s disappointing, but as far as our guys played, the way we went about it, and every other intangible from this team, I’m ecstatic with this group.”
The “Achilles Heel” Inning
The Utes were able to beat Arizona in their first conference series of the season. They took down USC towards the middle of the year, and also notched a series victory against Washington State.
Looking back at other series this season, the Utes went 12 innings against No. 3 Stanford. A four-run inning was what hurt the Utes’ chances of getting the victory in Palo Alto. The Utes also went 11 innings against No. 6 Oregon State. Ahead 2-1 in the eighth inning, the Utes allowed the Beavers to tie the game before winning it in extras. These weren’t the only extra inning losses in conference play this season. Utah went 12 innings with No. 12 Arizona State. The first game of the series was one that the Utes had a chance to win but let slip. This would’ve given the Utes the series win against the Sun Devils, building momentum heading into UCLA the next week.
The Utes also had two winnable games against both Cal and Washington at the end of the year. One tough inning in each of those games allowed the opposing team to get the victory.
One inning was all the Utes needed to take these victories and move up in the Pac-12 standings. Dunn said it best after a series loss to Cal when he said “It’s been one inning that we’ve let slip away a lot and that’s what happened this weekend. We need to compete for all nine instead of eight of the nine.”
If the Utes could’ve finished the games that I’ve mentioned above with a win and not given up that one inning, the Utes would be sitting in fifth place in the Pac-12, putting them in contention for a NCAA Tournament berth.
Injuries have plagued the Utes this year, allowing lots of freshman to gain tons of valuable playing experience. This should bring a lot of hope for the upcoming seasons. At times this season, we have seen as many as six freshmen playing at one time. These freshmen include McCleve, Knight, Deveaux, Jayden Kiernan, Christian Almanza, Tyler Thompson, Jack Liffrig, Dustyn Schramm, Nick Caviglia, Jake Dahle and David Watson. Many of these players have played a crucial role for the Utes, especially down the stretch.
The Utes will say goodbye to five of six seniors on this year’s team.
Chandler Anderson played all four seasons at Utah as a strong option in the outfield. Isaac Cruz played two seasons at Utah after transferring from Ohlone College and was mainly a designated hitter, pinch hitter and pinch runner for the Utes. Joshua Tedeschi was dominant on the mound and became a staple on Utah’s pitching staff during his five seasons at the U. Migueles has become an extremely dangerous hitter for the Utes, blasting 15 home runs in two seasons. Finally, there is Austin Moore, who has been a solid pitcher for the Utes during his time on the pitching staff. Kyle Robeniol is the last senior on this year’s team, but will likely come back next season after an injury early in the year should grant him a medical redshirt.
Coach Bill Kinneberg said about his senior class, “We wanted to send these guys out on a good note, and I’m proud of the way they’ve played. They’re guys that have helped us a lot, so it’s bittersweet for us but they’ve all had great careers so we’re very thankful to them.”
Pitching struggled this season. Injuries were no help. Next year, Kyle Robeniol will return if he is granted a medical redshirt after missing the better part of this season. Robeniol was slated to be one of Utah’s best on the mound only to have his season cut short after a knee injury.
Brett Brocoff will also be back next year. A knee injury sidelined Brocoff for the second half of 2019. Brocoff was in the midst of a solid season for the Utes, establishing himself as a dominant force on the mound when the injury occurred.
Getting these two back will be big for the Utes as they head into 2020 with a more experienced pitching staff.
Depending on what the MLB Draft has in store for Dunn, we may also see the Utes’ most consistent player back for his senior year. If this happens, the majority of Utah’s starting nine will be back in 2020.
When asked about his mindset regarding the draft, Dunn said, “I don’t have any set rounds whether I’m going or coming back. Over the next few days I’ll be working out and then the draft will come, so I’m just excited for the process.”
Expectations For Next Year
Let’s be realistic. The Pac-12 is one of the nation’s top baseball conferences with two to three teams in the top five for most of the 2019 season. Will the Utes make the massive jump of being among those teams? Probably not. What Utah is capable of, though, is making a push at a postseason berth in the next few seasons.
Experience will be key for next year’s team. If the Utes are able to use the deep experience that they now have and finish ballgames, they could be a fun team to watch.