A clean sweep

The bleeding finally stopped for the U baseball team this weekend. Having come out of four straight conference series on the losing end, the Utes needed to get back on track as conference play winds down-and the Air Force Falcons were just the ticket.

Utah dealt the Falcons a clean sweep at Franklin Covey Field this weekend, punctuated by a seven-inning, shutout victory Sunday afternoon.

“Air Force is a scrappy team. They have three pretty good starting pitchers and their bullpen is a bit thin,” U head coach Bill Kinneberg said. “We just had to outweigh that and try to keep them down so we could have a big inning, which we did all weekend.”

The Utes started slow Sunday, getting on the board with a pair of RBI singles from Jay Brossman and a run-scoring double from Bret Baldwin, but they really put the clamps on in the sixth.

With two runners on and nobody out, Ute senior Joe Mozeleski drove a frozen rope to left center, sending both runners across the plate to open up a 5-0 advantage. Two batters later, Ryan Khoury-the MWC’s leading hitter at .444-sent his 13th home run of the season sailing over the deepest part of the ballpark in center field, and just like that, it was an 8-0 blowout.

“We weren’t really patient early on in the game,” Mozeleski said. “We were just chasing pitches we shouldn’t have been swinging at, and then once a couple guys got hits, then all of a sudden, you get into a good flow offensively.”

The homer was the 280th hit of Khoury’s Ute career, tying the school record set by Nate Weese in 2002.

That was more than enough for Ute southpaw Eric King, who gave up just four runs in 6.2 innings of work to earn his fourth victory of the season.

“That was a great effort,” Kinneberg said. “I think all three starting pitchers did a nice job for us.”

King (4-7) struck out five and walked just one, while his Falcon counterpart, Jake Petro (2-5), finally wore down after 117 pitches, walking three and yielding five earned runs in five innings on the hill.

“I felt good. I didn’t feel like I had all my stuff, but I felt like I could put it where I wanted to when I needed to,” King said. “I just went at ’em. Against a team like Air Force, you just want to be aggressive and try to get quick outs.”

Coming into the weekend, the Utes had lost five of six overall, as a typically potent offense had gone AWOL in recent games. That trend continued in Friday’s opener-until the seventh inning, that is. Utah broke a 4-4 tie with a seven-run seventh, paced by two-run homers from Bret Baldwin and Clayne Garrett, en route to a 12-4 win.

Josh Cooper (5-6) picked up the win, scattering 11 hits over eight innings of work, striking out nine while yielding four earned runs.

The Utes used practically the same formula to perfection Saturday afternoon. Down 2-0 early on, the U posted seven runs in the bottom of the fourth-including Brossman’s three-run double-and from there, Lucas Trinnaman did the rest.

The junior hurler shut down the Air Force bats (10-33, 1-18 MWC), tossing seven innings of two-hit ball. Trinnaman (3-3) struck out nine and didn’t allow an earned run as the Utes cruised to a 13-2 victory. Baldwin drove in three runs, and John Welsh belted his eighth homer of the season.

In six games over their previous two weekends, the Utes had averaged just 3.3 runs per contest-an aberration for a group that had routinely put up big numbers on the scoreboard this season. But three double-digit performances were just the antidote the Utes needed as they head into the final stretch of the year.

“We just relaxed and didn’t panic,” Mozeleski said. “We got back in the cages and went back to the basics and we just worked really hard and we got out of it.”

The Utes (26-23, 9-10 MWC) can clinch a winning regular-season record Tuesday afternoon with a win over Southern Utah at Franklin Covey. The team will then host BYU for a season-ending three-game set next weekend.