Baseball slips up in College Station

The weekend started out just right for the U baseball team, but things quickly deteriorated, as the Utes dropped two of three at the four-team Domino’s Classic in College Station, Texas.

After Josh Cooper shut down the Missouri State bats in the tournament opener Friday afternoon, the Utes dropped two-straight ballgames, including a ninth-inning heartbreaker Sunday afternoon.

“It’s disappointing that we lost (Sunday). We didn’t play extremely well,” U head coach Bill Kinneberg said. “I was disappointed in the way we played after really playing very well on Friday and pretty good (Saturday) until the ninth inning.”

After taking a 3-0 lead Sunday over the University of North Carolina Greensboro Spartans, thanks to RBI singles from Breeze Stringham and Ryan Khoury, the Utes all but disappeared over the next several innings as the Spartans climbed back into it. Greg Feltes’ go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Spartans took a 5-3 lead, which they held into the ninth inning.

The Ute bats finally awoke, as Scott Malone doubled in a pair of runners to tie the ballgame at five. But the Spartans had heroics of their own, as Jermaine Mitchell came through with a walk-off RBI single off Ute freshman Brad DeVore in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory.

“We walked a lot of batters today, and they had a lot of opportunities to score some runs,” Kinneberg said, alluding to the 10 walks Ute pitchers surrendered. “We didn’t play real sharp today. Maybe we were a little fatigued from last night’s game, but it was just a total breakdown.”

The previous evening, Utah suffered another difficult loss in a 6-1 decision to undefeated Texas A&M. The Aggies clung to a 2-1 lead going into the final inning, but effectively put the ballgame away with four runs in the ninth.

“I’m never happy when we lose, but I had a pretty good feeling going into the ninth inning that we might have had a chance of winning this ballgame,” Kinneberg said. “But we kind of self-destructed in that ninth.”

Despite posting just one run, Kinneberg was much happier with his team’s effort Saturday than its Sunday afternoon breakdown.

The Utes’ lone bright spot over the weekend was Friday’s victory over the MSU Bears. Cooper (2-1), starting his second game of the season, continued to secure his role as the team’s No. 1 starter with another gem, this time going eight innings and yielding just one run.

“Josh was terrific on Friday,” Kinneberg said. “We played great defense behind him. He got a few strikeouts, but he had a ton of ground balls and completely overmatched them in their offense.”

He got just enough run support in the form of three hits and two RBI from Malone as the Utes went on to win, 4-1, to finally reach the .500 mark, albeit briefly.

In the tournament finale Monday afternoon, the Utes have a rematch with Missouri State, which defeated UNCG Saturday and fell to Texas A&M Sunday. (PENDING)

“Tomorrow, we’ve got to pick ourselves up and erase the last two days and get back after it and play hard,” Kinneberg said.

Since all three of the team’s starting pitchers have already started, junior transfer Brandon Ast will get be on the hill. Ast struggled in his only relief appearance of the year, giving up five runs without even getting an out in a 12-5 loss to New Mexico State early this season.

“I just hope he goes out and competes really hard,” Kinneberg said. “Hopefully we can get three or four good innings out of him early and get his confidence back.”