Bullpen still cold for struggling Utes

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

Utes, derailed?

Utah (13-21, 3-12 MWC) is on a nine-game losing streak, its worst since the Mountain West Conference formed 10 years ago. It remains in question why this team isn’t getting the leadership from the top, which is necessary for winning ball clubs to have. Because of that, the Utes sit in last place in the league, behind Air Force, and have completely gone the wrong way.

Last week, pitcher Brian Budrow said the team got together without the coaches and had a team meeting after three extra-inning losses to the New Mexico Lobos, and the morale looked good at practice following it. But Utah fell into the same pattern of holding onto a lead late and having the bullpen earn the loss.

Third baseman Nick Kuroczko said last week that this is a good team that has been in a lot of close games to some good teams. The Utes still have nothing to show for it and if things continue to flow the way they are, it could be the first time the Utes have ever missed the MWC Tournament in May.

Bullpen woes

This season, when it comes to losses, it always comes around to the bullpen for Utah8212;week in and week out.

The hits are there, the starting pitching is there, but over the streak of losses, the bullpen hasn’t gotten it done.

If the bullpen wants to get on track, it will have to do it now while the Utes play a stretch of six non-conference games, starting with Washington State, which has an 18-16 record, with a 5-11 mark on the road.

Following the final non-conference games of the season is a game against the Falcons in Colorado Springs, Colo. Utah could be in prime position to pick up some wins against Air Force, but it will all depend on the bullpen.

Greg Krause has turned into Utah’s “go-to” guy on the mound late in games. He has done a fairly productive job on the bump with a 5.79 ERA, but has recorded four losses and only two saves in 17 appearances.

Stephen Streich is second in line when the coaching staff goes to the bullpen. He is fifth on the team with a 5.96 ERA. In 17 appearances, he hasn’t recorded any saves but has earned two wins and two losses. Streich is usually the set-up pitcher for Krause.

If either of these two are struggling, it’s up in the air for the bullpen. Senior closer Robert Chimpky hardly sees action anymore because of his inflated 9.95 ERA. Freshman Joe Pond has been solid on the bump as a freshman, but doesn’t have the experience to be Utah’s closer. If the Utes don’t figure out the bullpen situation quickly, it could be a rough month.

Scouting Washington State

The Cougars have a winning, yet mediocre record of 18-16, but have played some of the best teams in the country this season. Like the Utes, they have been close in a lot of games, but unlike Utah, they have found ways to win some.

This season, Washington State has played six top 25 teams and came out with a 4-11 record against it. The record doesn’t justify how they played against these teams. Of the 11 losses, six have been within two runs or less.

Matt Way is the Cougars’ ace pitcher with a 2.22 ERA and a 5-3 record. Jeremy Johnson accompanies him with a 2.95 ERA and a 4-1 record. These guys can hurl the ball, and with an offense that bats .277 as a team, pitching is where they get wins.

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