Swingin’ Utes’ schedule toughest yet, coach says

By Marco Villano

There’s really nothing that compares with the U baseball team and the horde of road games that initiates its season, besides maybe a band on tour.

The U baseball 2009 schedule was released earlier this month and the players will begin the season with a tour of 16 straight road games before their not-so-welcome homecoming against reigning MWC champs TCU. A long road schedule at the beginning of each season is something that U baseball players have done for years, thanks to Utah’s freezing temperatures.

“That’s going to happen every year to us ’cause we can’t take the chance of losing games due to weather that early,” head coach Bill Kinneberg said. “Those first three weeks of the year we’re always going to travel.”

The Utes didn’t exactly tear it up last season during their 16-game road trip, earning a record of 6-10 before heading home to drop two more to San Diego State. In fact, they didn’t fare well at all on the road with a record of 16-22, which is something that they should improve on with the experience they have this year.

“The thing that I am really anxious about is that we’re going to have much more depth than we had last year,” Kinneberg said.

On the road trip, the U will face teams that had great seasons in 2008. First, they will make their way to Huntsville, Texas, to face Sam Houston State on March 5-a team that compiled 37 wins last season and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

The Utes will then face College Station and Texas A&M March 6 and March 7. The Aggies had a 46-19 record last season and were ranked in the top 15 in four different polls.

From Texas, the Utes will head to Utah county for a three-game set against BYU (March 12 through March 14). In 2008 the Utes edged out the Cougars in their season rivalry, winning three of five games. This end to a long road trip will be a good test for the Utes, who made a strong showing at the end of last season.

Kinneberg said the 2009 schedule, in which nine of the 15 teams they face had winning records in 2008, is the hardest he has had as head coach of the team.

The U will host a plethora of tough home games which includes the likes of TCU (March 20 through March 22), a team that won 44 games last season and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, Washington State (April 21 and April 22) and UC Irvine (April 24 through April 26), which made it to the NCAA super regionals after compiling a 42-18 record.

Other games to keep an eye out for at home are battles against SUU (March 27 through March 29), BYU (April 16 through April 18) and San Diego State (May 14 through May 16).

The Utes will throw their first pitch Feb. 20 against Loyola Marymount.

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