U baseball backs its boost against Aztecs

Even amid some costly mistakes, this weekend’s series against San Diego State was arguably the best performance by the U baseball team thus far in the season.

Moreover, the Utes proved to their critics, and most importantly themselves, that they can do more than just compete with the best in the Mountain West Conference: they can win, too.

The U baseball team won two of three games over the weekend in a series against San Diego State-a team coached by Major League Baseball future hall-of-famer Tony Gwynn. The team won Saturday’s game 7-6, Sunday’s 8-4, but lost Friday’s contest 3-2.

In fact, the Utes could have just as easily picked up Friday’s game as well, save for the three runs, all of which were unearned.

Center Fielder Matt Ciaramella was responsible for both of Utah’s runs in the game, while a throwing error by second baseman Jared Pena in the bottom of the fourth inning scored one for the Aztecs and they plated two more in the bottom of the sixth via an error by first baseman Jake Waldram.

Ciaramella went two-for-two with a solo home run in the first inning and a one-run double in the third. Jason Price started for the Utes, pitched about six innings and struck out seven while not giving up a single earned run.

After the close loss, the Utes came back on Saturday and nearly doubled the Aztecs in hits (15-8). However, in the end, the game was close and the lead changed a few times before the Utes went up for good in the top of the ninth. Jared Pena scored one run and had four RBI, including a base hit in the ninth inning to score right fielder Eric Chevalier, Utah’s seventh and winning run.

In Sunday’s finale, the Utes came out all over San Diego State, even though the Aztecs were the first to score in the first inning. The Utes put up four runs in the third inning, lead by Ciaramella’s two-run double to center field.

In the fourth, Ciaramella and Pena combined hits for another run, and after Aztec pitching changed, the Utes put up two more runs to take a 7-1 lead.

Senior Michael Westfall Jr. went four-for-five at the plate with a run and one driven in, with short stop Ryan Khoury going four-for six with two runs and an RBI. Ciaramella went two-for-five with two runs and two RBI and Chevalier was two-for-five with two runs scored, including a triple in the ninth.

The Utes had 16 hits in Sunday’s game and over the last two days had 31 hits and 16 runs.

In addition, pitching for the Utes was stellar all weekend.

While Price didn’t give up a single earned run, starter Ben Buck pitched one inning in Saturday’s contest and started on Sunday to pick up two wins in as many days, and Clay Westmoreland picked up his fifth and sixth win, pitching three perfect innings in Sunday’s win.

It was a showcase of solid hitting, stellar pitching and good defense all weekend as the team took two-of-three against a conference opponent for the first time this year.

As the Utes improved to 12-23 on the season and 5-10 in conference play, they did it in convincing fashion over a team that was in first place in conference standings just more than a week ago and sat in third place coming into the series.

The wins came just in time for the team as they are coming upon the final turn of the season with a conference-heavy schedule lined up and games with UVSC in between.

The Utes will face the Wolverines next on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Ute field.

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