Utah Baseball Drops First Two, Takes Third in Home Series Against Cal

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University of Utah graduate student Jaylon McLaughlin(10) in a NCAA Baseball game vs. BYU at Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Mar. 11, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Justin Prather, Sports Writer

 

The University of Utah baseball team stayed at home for their second conference series of the season, hosting the University of California Golden Bears. Home field advantage didn’t favor the Utes, who dropped the first two games to Cal, but significantly better batting in game three saved the weekend for Utah.

The first game was an absolute blowout for Utah who gave up nine runs on 11 hits. Justin Kelly took his normal Friday night start on the mound and was pulled in the sixth inning for Josh Giffins after Kelly allowed eight runs on as many hits. Cal’s game-one lineup had a majority hitting lefty which could account for some of Utah’s mound struggles. 

Cal’s pitching left little room for Utah to do damage from the plate. The Utes had four hits for no runs and were allowed a free bag only four times while being sent back to the dugout with 10 strikeouts. Cal took the game 9-0.

Utah found themselves in a close battle for most of game two. The Golden Bears put the first two runs on the board in the second inning. Utah answered in the third with one — off a single from Kai Roberts to bring in Matt Richardson. Richardson paid it forward in the fourth on a single to center to score Jaylon McLaughlin and Brock Rudy. 

The next two runs for Cal came on two sacrifice flies in the eighth followed by a single for an RBI to put the score at 7-3 Bears to end the eighth. Cal didn’t take their final at-bat off, scoring two more for a comfortable 9-3 lead heading into Utah’s last chance at the plate. Christopher Rowan Jr. led off, pinch-hitting for Gabe Singer, and bombed one over the left-field wall. Richardson got on base with a single to set up an RBI for Vinny Zavolta, who doubled in his at-bat. Cal brought in Steven Zobac to close and ended Utah’s hopes for a comeback on a double play from third to first, taking the game 9-5. Utah had 13 hits on the evening.

The Utes refused to be shut out on the series though, starting game three off with the first run on the board in the third inning. Zavolta doubled with two outs and Jayden Kiernan brought him across with a follow-up single. Cal answered with their own run in the fourth, but Utah’s monster fifth inning took advantage of a breakdown in the Golden Bears’ pitching. 

Richardson and Zavolta got on base with hits and Kiernan took first on a walk to load the bases. Rowan took his first pitch and singled to center, racking up two RBIs. A walk from Rudy loaded the bases and another from McLaughlin added a run. Tyler Thompson took the last at-bat and doubled to left field, scoring two, but Cal caught McLaughlin in a pickle after he fell rounding third to end the inning with Utah up 6-1.

Utah added one more in the sixth and four in the seventh to go up 11-1, the best spread and highest single-game score for the Utes this season. Cal’s last-ditch effort in the ninth brought three runs across. Brayson Hurdsman was called in to take the rubber and closed out the Bears without issue, Utah won 11-4 and moved to 2-4 in conference play.

The Utes have a chance at a winning conference record this coming weekend on the road in Corvallis, Oregon against the Oregon State Beavers. The Beavers are 16-5 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play, undefeated on the road and 7-4 at home. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. MST on Thursday, April 1 at Coleman Field.

 

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