Finally touching base

One inning. If not for one bad inning, the U baseball team would have just completed a virtually unblemished weekend in New Mexico.

As it stands, it still went down as an impressive weekend for the Utes, who took two of three from New Mexico State in the second week of the young season. The one aforementioned inning that kept it from being a clean sweep? An exceptionally bad second inning in game one on Friday, in which two Ute pitchers combined to give up 12 runs as the Aggies raced out in front en route to a 16-5 win.

“That second inning was kind of a nightmare,” U head coach Bill Kinneberg said.

NMSU outfielder Joseph Scaperotta led the way for the Aggies, going 5-for-5 with seven RBI. In fact, the sophomore nearly hit for the cycle-all he needed was a single.

But that was as good as it got for NMSU. Even in the Aggies’ Friday victory, they ran out of gas after their 12-run inning, and ended up yielding the next two games of the series as the Utes picked up their first two wins of the year. After taking a little while to adjust to the outdoors and dropping a three-game set against Santa Clara last weekend, the Utes are “getting closer,” coach Kinneberg said. Well, never did “getting closer” look as good as it did in the weekend finale Sunday afternoon, as the offense exploded and the Utes delivered an 18-1 shelling on the Aggies.

At the core of the team’s success this weekend was the respective showings of senior hurlers Lucas Trinnaman and Eric King.

“They both gave us strong outings,” Kinneberg said of his two pitchers.

Trinnaman, who had an uncharacteristically weak outing in his 2007 debut last weekend, rebounded on Saturday, giving up just one earned run and picking up his-and the team’s-first win of the season. The senior gave up just three hits and was given a big cushion early. The Utes put three runs on the board in the top of the first thanks to two based-loaded walks and an RBI single from senior outfielder John Welsh.

New acquisition Nick Lowery, a transfer from Scottsdale Community College, drove in a pair of runs and Utah went on to win 7-4.

“It was a big relief getting that first win, and just getting through it,” Kinneberg said.

And then came Sunday’s ballgame, which was such a lopsided affair that the Utes really only needed two of their eventual 18 runs. King was dominant in his second start of the season, giving up just one hit in five nearly flawless innings.

“That was as good as I’ve ever seen him, probably,” Kinnberg said. “With the exception of the one inning, we had 10 guys that pitched very well (this weekend). That’s a huge positive.”

The Ute bullpen was King’s equal, continuing to silence the Aggie bats even when the game was effectively decided. Ute center fielder Nate Burnham, the team’s new leadoff hitter, got on base four times, making it easy for three-time all-MWC selection Jay Brossman to drive in five runs. Lowery added three more RBI.

And so the Utes’ first two wins are in the books. While Kinneberg is quick to admit that the team “has a ways to go,” the weekend’s performance is a significant improvement over the Santa Clara series.

“Winning the series is important. What’s most important is we came ready to play (Sunday), which is tough after two long games,” he said. “I’m very happy with our effort, our intensity and our concentration level.”