Suprise Air Force To Challenge U for Third

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The U baseball team has had a goal of beating the odds, of becoming a team that was predicted to finish 3rd in the Mountain West Conference to getting to the NCAA Regionals.

However, the Utes have not been the only team in the MWC to beat the odds and try to finish above and beyond where they were predicted.

The Air Force Falcons are 18-17, (5-7 in the conference) which holds them tied for third place in the conference race.

The Falcons were predicted to finish dead last, and now, after taking two of three from UNLV and splitting with BYU, Air Force has a fighting chance to take sole possession of third place this weekend.

“This is the best team Air Force has had since I’ve been at Utah,” U coach Tim Esmay said. “This is another big conference battle because everybody is neck and neck right now.”

Meanwhile, Utah is coming off a split with Mesa State, which should have been a sweep, if it was not for a ninth-inning surge by Mesa State.

The last conference battle the Utes had was the unforgettable series with the BYU Cougars, which may have figured into the loss to Mesa State considering the mental drain.

The Utes have to get back on their toes for the Academy.

The bats for the Falcons have been on fire lately. Air Force destroyed the Colorado School of Mines in the last game of a midweek series, 23 15.

The Falcons scored a run in every inning, and junior John Phifer completed the amazing feat of hitting for the cycle, a single, double, triple and homer all in the same game.

Bowie Frost has an amazing batting average of .414 with 33 RBI and 16 doubles.

“Our pitchers will have to be ready to shut them down this week,” Esmay said.

The weakness for the Falcons has been their pitching staff, as they have not been able to shut down many offenses?and the Utes possess one of the most potent offenses in the conference.

Air Force pitchers Johnny Koegel and Matt Kaercher have been the leaders of the Academy pitching staff, and will have their work cut out for them against the U hitters.

“We have the best batters in this conference,” Ute pitcher Jason Wylie said. “I have pitched against every team in this conference, and pitching to these guys in practice is the toughest.”

On the U offensive, Brit Pannier has panned out to be one of the best hitters, as he leads the team with 43 RBI and 18 doubles.

Senior Adam Castleton leads the team with a .383 batting average, while Nate Weese leads the team with 10 home runs.

The key in the series will be the Air Force pitching, but even if they shut down the Ute hitters, pitchers Wylie, Cheyenne Rushton and Mitch Maio will have to be beaten in order for the Falcons to overtake the Utes in the conference standings.

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