Baseball drops two of three to open 2006

The first two days of the 2006 season didn’t go as planned for the U baseball team, but the Utes responded in huge fashion Sunday afternoon, salvaging a three-game set with a 21-9 drubbing of the New Mexico State Aggies.

NMSU took the first two games of the season-opening weekend set, holding the revamped Ute offense to just six runs over the first two games. But eight Utah home runs and a nine-run fourth inning propelled the team to its first victory of the season Sunday.

“It was good for us to kind of get off the schneid and really swing the bat well,” U head coach Bill Kinneberg said. “It was really windy, which contributed to some of the runs. But we did swing the bats very, very well and aggressively. We made hard contact, and that was good to see.”

After the Aggies took a 4-0 lead through three innings, the Ute bats finally awoke. Junior John Welsh led off the inning with a solo home run, and that was only the beginning. Joe Mozeleski and Adam Frank hit back-to-back homers later in the inning and Breeze Stringman-a JUCO transfer from De Anza College seeing his first Division-I action-belted a grand slam to highlight the nine-run surge and put the Utes up for good.

“Breeze Stringman really did great today, he had four hits and two home runs. He really did a nice job,” Kinneberg said.

But even after the momentum-shifting fourth inning, the damage was hardly done. The Utes added four more round-trippers on the day and held off a New Mexico State rally with a seven-run sixth inning.

While the Aggies eventually finished with nine runs-which would have been more than enough for victory in either of the first two games of the series-head coach Rocky Ward wasn’t satisfied with his team’s Sunday afternoon performance.

“I’m disappointed that we left so many men on base, and we had some bad at-bats that could have been important,” Ward said. “We had a chance to take them out in certain innings with the wind blowing out, but we didn’t, and that’s part of playing the game.”

Freshman hurler Greg Krause came on in relief of starter Jason Price and tossed three innings to earn his first career victory. Kinneberg, in fact, was even more impressed with the performance of his pitching staff giving Sunday’s difficult conditions.

“I was even more proud of how Jason Price and Greg Krause and Shad McCord pitched,” Kinneberg said. “It was a tough pitching day, the wind was blowing out. Giving up nine runs in today’s ballgame was a stellar effort.”

Over the first two days of the series, the Utes clearly showed their inexperience and early season jitters. Kinneberg attributed that to the fact that the team hasn’t been able to train outdoors yet because of the weather in Salt Lake City, which has forced them to train exclusively indoors.

“The first day in particular we looked like an indoor team. Each inning we got more accustomed to it, and we did see some good pitching the first two days,” he said. “We had chances in the first game. Two weeks from now we win that ballgame.”

In that first game, the Utes managed just one run but still kept it close throughout. The game was tied at 1-1 through seven innings, but Joseph Godinez broke the stalemate with a two-run double in the eighth, which proved to be the game-winner.

Utah fell again Saturday afternoon, blowing an early 5-1 lead and surrendering 11 unanswered runs. The Aggies scored eight runs in the fifth inning to take control and got five RBI from 2005 third-team All-American Luke Hopkins.

The Utes take the field once again next weekend, as they head back on the road to face off against Texas-San Antonio in a three-game series.

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