U baseball battles BYU for Deseret First Duel

By Bryan Chouinard

Utah’s winning streak grew to six games as the Utes handled the Southern Utah Thunderbirds 7-6 at Ute Field yesterday. The Utes jumped out to an early lead on Nick Kuroczko’s first home run of the year in the bottom of the second inning. The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Thunderbirds came roaring back in the top of the sixth to a one run lead. It wasn’t until the top of the eighth with the bases loaded that the Utes would take the lead for good on a balk by SUU pitcher Kyle Hamman. In the top of the ninth closer Robert Chimpky was called in to seal the deal and closed out the Thunderbirds to give Utes a 1.5 game lead for the fourth spot in the MWC over idle BYU.
Manager Bill Kinneberg will lead the U baseball team onto Franklin Covey Field this weekend to take on the Cougars in a three game set to not only close out the regular season, but to decide the winner of the Deseret First Duel for both schools.
Currently BYU has the edge with a 31-28.5 lead over Utah in the Duel, which matches the schools head-to-head in twelve sports to crown a champion for the 2007-08 school year. With each game being worth 1.5 points, the Utes 21-24 (9-12) need a clean sweep or BYU 20-33 (8-13) will walk away with the inaugural Deseret First Duel trophy. The Cougars, who have lost seven of their last nine games, will have their hands full with the Utes, who will be led by catcher Jesse Shriner, who recently was named MWC player of the week. Shriner batted a staggering .522 with three home runs and 10 RBIs last week to lead the Utes to a 5-0 record on the week, which included a sweep of Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Utah pitching staff will have to be on point as the Cougars bring a deep lineup with five players batting over .300 led by outfielder Sean McNaughton, who is hitting a team high .363 on the season to go with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs.
This won’t be the first time these two teams have seen each other this year. Early in April the Utes made the trip down to Larry H. Miller Field in Provo to take on the Cougars and returned to Salt Lake with a 9-7 victory. The Utes fell into a quick 3-0 deficit, only to come storming back with nine unanswered runs led by first baseman Austin Jones, who finished the night going 4-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored.
While the Utes are sitting in fourth place in the Mountain West standings heading into the week, BYU and UNLV are battling for the 5th and 6th seeds in the conference, both sit only one game back from Utah. The series begins Thursday at 6 p.m. under the lights of Franklin Covey Field and will wrap up Saturday with a 1 p.m. matinee.
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