The long road back

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

While no one can deny that last weekend’s ugly 20-5 loss at the hands of Colorado State made the Utes look sheepish, the actual consequences of that

game may be much more far-reaching. That loss, combined with a lackluster first round of play, may have knocked the defending champion Utes out of the MWC title race.

“I don’t even know what happened in that game,” said senior pitcher Meghan Dyer. “It was like I blinked and we were down 20-5. I don’t even know if it’s even mathematically possible for us to win conference.”

The Utes finished the first round of Mountain West competition with an unimpressive 2-8 record, a far cry from where they were at this point last season. And without a conference tournament to help them qualify for postseason play, the Utes just might be out of luck.

“Last year, we kind of struggled through the regular season but then kicked ass at the conference tournament,” Dyer said. “But this year we don’t have a tournament, so we have to finish strong if we’re going to get to regionals.”

But before the Utes go on the road to fight for their postseason lives, they have what amounts to a tune-up game against non-conference foe Utah State. The Aggies, as luck would have it, are well below .500, have lost four of their last five and just might be in even worse shape than Utah.

Considering the Aggies have already been throttled by mediocre, little-known teams like UVSC and Towson, today’s showdown could be the confidence-builder that the Utes need to get back on track before heading to Provo to face BYU this weekend.

Nevertheless, the Utes would be unwise to completely disregard the Aggies. While a win could go a long way toward repairing the team’s damaged psyche, a loss could just as easily send the Utes into a tailspin from which they might never recover.

“We’re trying to stay positive, but its hard when things aren’t going as well as we would like,” Dyer said. “A big win would probably help us get out of this funk.”

The Utes’ pitchers would do well to keep an eye on senior slugger Jamie Fife, who leads the team with a .366 batting average and 27 RBI on the season. Junior Amy Schaible is also dangerous at the plate and garnered athlete-of-the-week honors after leading the Aggies to a sweep of Louisiana Tech last weekend.

Sophomore hurler Lindsay Benson will likely get the start in the circle. The Novato, Calif., native has looked good at times this season and leads the team with a 7-9 record and 3.47 ERA.

“We are looking forward to the opportunities to compete against Utah State and Brigham Young,” said U head coach Angie Jacobs. “This is going to be the start of the second round of league play and will be our chance to make up some lost ground.”

Lisa Teran

Meghan Dyer throws a Colorado State runner out at first on Saturday in the 20-5 loss. The Utes hope to bounce back against Utah State today starting at 3 p.m. at Ute Field.