Soaking up the R&R: Baseball team to rest pitchers for tourney

With their sights already set on next week’s Mountain West Conference Tournament, the U baseball team (18-31, 10-17 MWC) will close the regular season on the road this weekend as it takes on the UNLV Rebels (27-26, 20-7 MWC).

The Rebels, who are just 7-19 outside the conference, are the No. 1 team in the MWC this season, but they hold just a one-game lead over second-place BYU.

If they take care of business against the Utes this weekend, UNLV will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tourney, and Utah will take on the archrival Cougars in the tournament, which will take place in Salt Lake City beginning next Wednesday, May 25.

The Utes have clinched the No. 5 seed, and they will take it easy this weekend by resting their pitchers for the tournament.

“We’re going to be the fifth seed no matter what we do. We’ve gotta get ourselves set up for the tournament,” U head coach Bill Kinneberg said. “So we’re going to be really cautious with our pitching, and make sure our guys are ready to go next week.”

The first time these two teams met-a three-game series in Salt Lake City in mid-April-the Utes won the first game of the set before the Rebels’ offense took over in the second and third games of the series, both Utah losses.

After Jay Brossman and Joe Mozeleski drove in three runs apiece in the Utes’ 9-5 win on Apr. 15, the two clubs battled in an absolute slugfest the following day.

Brossman once again starred for Utah, going 5-for-6 and driving in three more runs, and both Doug Beck and Ryder Olson had three RBIs apiece, but it still wasn’t enough.

UNLV center fielder C.J. Lang had four hits and five RBIs as the Rebels pounded 21 hits in an 18-15 victory over Utah.

In the final game of that series, the Rebels kept on hitting but the UNLV pitching staff kept the Ute bats relatively silent in an 11-3 Rebel victory. After winning the series with Utah, the Rebels went on to win nine of their next 11 games to rise to the top of the conference standings.

But the Utes, who may face the Rebels again in the first round of the MWC Tournament should BYU overtake UNLV for first place, aren’t intimidated by their weekend counterpart.

“Our whole philosophy is to play hard all the time, no matter who we’re playing,” Ute center fielder John Welsh said. “We’ve beaten this team before…we can get the job done if we play well.”

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