Baseball: Utes get swept in San Diego

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

With the weather sunny and around 75-degrees, San Diego is an ideal destination for many people this time of year. For the U baseball team last weekend, though, it may as well have been the seventh circle of hell.

The Utes lost three games in three days to MWC-leading San Diego State to drop their overall record to 13-17. The losses also dropped Utah to sixth in conference play with just over a month left.

“We didn’t play well in any phase of the game this weekend,” Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg said.

The closest game of the weekend was a pitcher-dominated series opener between the two teams Friday. Utah’s Stephen Fife pitched for 6.2 innings for the Utes and allowed only five hits, but the fifth hit proved to make the difference in the game. In the bottom of the seventh inning, SDSU’s Erik Castro singled to shortstop. After a bean ball and a walk, the bases were loaded for Troy Hanzawa. Hanzawa hit the ball at Utah third baseman DC Legg, and Legg mishandled it, bringing Castro across the plate for the only run of the game.

Fife’s impressive performance was upstaged by the pitching clinic put on by the Aztecs’ Stephen Strasburg. The sophomore etched his name into both SDSU and MWC record books by striking out 23 batters — CSU’s John Hemmerly previously held the record with 18 strikeouts — and allowing only one hit in nine innings of work. Strasburg’s effort was good enough for a 1-0 Aztec win. Michael Beltran recorded the only Utah hit, drilling a shot up the middle for a single.

“Strasburg was throwing extremely hard on Friday,” Kinneberg said. “We had him clocked between 96 and 101 miles per hour. We batted just about as well as we could against somebody like that. He was amazing.”

The Utes’ run-scoring woes continued throughout the weekend. On Saturday, the team combined for nine hits, but virtually every one of them came in different innings, making it difficult to come across the plate. Facing a 9-0 deficit in the top of the ninth inning, Utah finally got on the scoreboard thanks to Nick Kuroczko and Corey Shimada. Kuroczko knocked Cooper Blanc home on a line drive to second base, and Shimada followed up with a triple that scored Fred Ferguson.

Meanwhile, the Aztecs were all over Utah starting pitcher Brian Budrow from the beginning as they scored nine runs on 12 hits. SDSU’s leadoff batter Pat Colwell hit for the cycle in the game.

The Utes’ frustrating weekend only got worse Sunday as they combined for four errors in the contest and left with a 6-2 loss. Utah only trailed 4-2 in the top of the eighth with two runners on but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and had to settle on another loss.

“We just weren’t the same after Friday’s game,” Kinneberg said. “We didn’t play our game. We’ve got to play to our potential.”

Utah will step out of conference play Tuesday when it plays host to in-state foe UVSC at Ute Field. It will resume MWC play this weekend against New Mexico in Albuquerque.

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