Confidence is key for Utes in Pac-12/Big 12 Challenge

Utah looks to rebound from a sluggish start last weekend in California as they travel to Arizona for the Pac-12/Big 12 challenge.

Last year, the team participated in this tournament except instead of Big 12 teams it was the Big 10 conference that participated. Notably, the Utes were victorious over nationally-ranked Indiana in a 15-inning game which saw the Utes come out on top 5-4. The team also took down Nebraska in a close game, 4-3.

After seeing success in 2014, Utah will travel by bus on Wednesday to get to Arizona and have at least one practice before its Thursday opener against Kansas State. The Utes will then square off against Kansas on Friday, nationally-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday and finish up with Oklahoma on Sunday.

Kansas State has two wins on the season. Kansas, who just played a three-game series against No. 2 LSU, went winless but lost by fairly close margins. Oklahoma State is 1-2 on the year after their series against Arizona State and Oklahoma is 2-3.

The games will be held at the spring training locations for multiple Major League Baseball teams, including the Texas Rangers and the Chicago Cubs.

The Utes have had trouble in the past losing close games that come down to the wire and have already lost two games this season that meet that criteria. Junior AJ Young said that his team needs to take this season one game at a time heading into the weekend.

“[We] can’t look too forward and [we] can’t look at the past,” he said. “The past is good because you can learn from your mistakes, but you have to move forward and go from there.”

Young went on to say that the Utes can’t stray away from the approach they’ve been taking thus far in the season and that the team needs to stick with the plan. The junior believes that the members of the team need to play their game above anything else.

Pitcher Bret Helton said that the approach to this weekend’s slate of games is going to be no different than any other weekend.

“We’ll go through the same preparation as always,” Helton said. “We’ll practice [Wednesday] and get a feel for the field and weather and everything like that and then tomorrow we’ll start it off. We’re going to bring as much energy as we can and try and re-make last Friday to where were all feeling real good and trying to start off with a good win on Thursday to set the tone for the weekend.”

Helton will get the pitching start on Thursday, but head coach Bill Kinnerberg did make one change to the pitching lineup from a week ago, as he added junior Dalton Carroll as the Friday starter. Freshman Jayson Rose will look to continue his stellar debut start on Saturday and junior Nolan Stouder will be on the mound for the Sunday game against the Sooners.

Rose said he believes that the team is in the right place after a disappointing opening weekend, saying that thinks the team’s attitude is in the right place.

“I think the team is still feeling good,” Rose said. “Yeah, we had a tough first series, but I think we’re still confident with what we’ve done in the fall and that we can continue and do have success this weekend.”

Confidence will be keys for the Utes as they face an array of capable opponents in the Pac-12/Big 12 Challenge.

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