Growing pains

The U baseball team doesn’t have many returning starters heading into the season, but it may not be the worst position to be in for new coach Bill Kinneberg.

The team won 22 games last season, and there certainly needed to be changes made throughout the team.

“It may not be a bad thing,” Kinneberg said referring to all the new faces.

His last coaching stint was at Utah in 1996, when the team won 30 games and was certainly on the rise. This year’s team is much different from the ’96 team, considering the fresh roster.

But Kinneberg is not pessimistic.

“We have a lot of new guys and they have worked very hard,” Kinneberg said. “I am anxious to see them play.”

The pitching staff is almost entirely new with only junior Jason Price returning. There are 10 new pitchers, including juniors Josh Madsen and Brian Hedman. Freshman pitchers that will get many chances to see the field this season include Steven Collora and Chase Christensen.

“We are going to go through some growing pains this season,” Kinneberg said.

Without a game under most of their belts, the pitchers will be challenged early in the season against strong opponents such UCLA, TCU and North Carolina-Wilminigton.

“The early tough games can be really good for us or they can be really bad for us,” Kinneberg said. “We have to take all the good things from the games we lose and build on them so we are ready when conference season comes around and we go down to San Diego State.”

Although the team is unproven in most facets of the game, the infield looks to have the most potential heading into the new season.

All-conference third baseman Jay Brossman is returning, while Ryan Khoury will anchor the infield at the shortstop position.

Doug Beck, who transferred from Texas Tech before last season, is now eligible to play and can play all four positions in the infield.

“I really like how we are looking defensively in the infield,” Kinneberg said.

The outfield is almost as much of an unknown as the pitching staff.

Only John Welsh, who started 32 games last year, is returning with substantial experience.

Besides Welsh, the Utes will look to Jake Basham, Tyler Kay and Seth Tartler to come through in the outfield.

The first part of the season is primarily on the road and Kinneberg wants to use it mainly as a learning experience until the conference season.

“I want our team to peak when the Mountain West Conference comes to town,” Kinneberg said.

The team plays its first game on the road Friday against Santa Clara.

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