Utah Baseball Opens Up Season This Weekend in San Antonio


By J. Prather


University of Utah baseball’s 2021 season opens with a three game series on the road against the University of Texas at San Antonio, Feb. 19-22. Utah is just two weeks shy of going a whole year with no baseball after the 2020 season was cut short due to the ongoing pandemic. The Utes ended last season 6-7 after playing only 13 of their scheduled 53 games, all on the road against out of conference teams.

“As a program, we’re really excited that we’re going to have a chance to play a full season,” head coach Bill Kinneberg said in an interview with Utah Athletics. “After last year and all the modifications that are going on, the ability to have a chance to play a regular schedule is very appealing to us. We understand there will be bumps in the road, but the best thing about it is we have the opportunity to play a full 15 weeks.”

The weekend matchup is one of two out-of-conference series to start off the season, the other against Loyola Marymount Feb. 26-28, before facing Arizona State in Tempe the first weekend in March. The Sun Devils were the favorite to take the conference in 2020 before play was suspended.

Utah then plays a three-game series against BYU March 11-13, the second of which will be the first home game for the Utes sandwiched between game one and three in Provo. Utah will play BYU in two more single game meets later in the season, April 13 and May 18. 

After BYU, Utah sets in for conference play starting at Stanford March 19-21. Then they will face the Cal Golden Bears at home March 26-28, head to Oregon State April 1-3 and Washington State April 9-11. Dixie State will trade-off single games with Utah in between conference matchups on March 23 in Salt Lake and April 6 in St. George.

The outlook for Utah this season is better than it has been in recent years, although credit has been slow to roll in for Kinneberg’s boys. D1Baseball listed them in the rest of the pack category when breaking down the Pac-12 for NCAA digital. But the offseason has been kind in way, allowing a number of Utes to return for an extra year of eligibility, bolstering depth in key areas. 

The bullpen hasn’t looked this stacked since the 2016 season when Utah took the conference for the first and only time in the Pac-12 era. Utah picked up graduate transfer left-hand pitcher Brayson Hurdsman who comes home to Utah after four seasons with the University of Houston. Friday night starter Justin Kelly returned in 2020 after a season recuperating from a UCL reconstruction also known as “Tommy John surgery.” Kelly had a slow start but ended the shortened season with a  2.66 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 23 innings.

Newcomers to watch off the mound include grad transfer outfielder Jaylon McLaughlin who comes to Utah from the University of Nevada. In his last full season in 2019, McLaughlin recorded a .339 batting average with 25 stolen bases. True freshman from Lehi, UT Kai Roberts joined the Utes this fall. With a career high school batting average of .370 and first team all-state recognition this 6’4” third baseman will be one to watch this season to get a picture of Utah’s baseball future.


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