Utah Baseball Heads to Corvallis to Bat with the Beavs

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University of Utah redshirt junior Vinny Zavolta(6) 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 J. Prather

 

Utah Baseball is scheduled to play another tough conference opponent as they head out on the road to take on the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, OR. The Beavers are having a great start to their season after a minor slump in 2019, following their 2018 NCAA College World Series title. The 2020 season was called short due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Oregon State did not have a chance to play conference ball. 

The Beavers hold the Pac-12 Conference top spot in baseball rankings with a 5-1 record, 18-5 overall, followed by Arizona State and UCLA at 4-2 in conference play. Their dominance comes from their all around performance and efficiency. In conference play, OSU holds the top spot at the plate in almost every statistical category, with a team batting average of .321, on base percentage of .419 with 68 hits for 45 runs in 212 at bats. 

A bright spot for Utah is that OSU has the fifth most strikeouts in the conference at 46, meaning they like to wait for their pitch and end up having to swing at breaking and off speed pitches or go down looking. If Utah pitchers can maintain command on the mound, make the count work for them and eat away at the edges of the strike zone, they can hamper the Beavers’ most dominant tool in their success.

It’s not a far fetched strategy for Utah either. In their most recent three-game-series against Cal, Utah gave up 11 and 12 hits in the first two games respectively, for nine runs in each. In both those outings, Utah’s best starters, Justin Kelly and Kyle Robeniol uncharacteristically struggled on the mound, with Kelly being taken out earlier than usual, allowing eight hits for six runs with two more tacked on after leaving the mound. 

Their performances were contrasted by David Watson’s, who made his fifth mound appearance and fourth start for Utah this season in the final game against Cal. In that game, he recorded a phenomenal 1.29 ERA allowing six hits for one run, one walk and retired four batters in seven innings, earning his first win of the season.

Utah will also have to remember what else helped them win the last game against the Golden Bears and their mid-series win against Stanford a couple weeks ago, bringing out the bats early, capitalizing with runners on base and maintaining pressure when the opposing pitcher gets pulled. In game one against Cal, Utah had one hit in the third and fifth, two in the eighth and no runs on the night. In game two, Utah had one more hit than Cal with 13 but only converted the effort to five runs. However, in game three, Utah put on a clinic in offensive efficiency with 11 hits for as many runs with only three innings recording no hits.

Utah gets a lot of undeserved flak as one of the worst ball teams in the conference. The Utes are not a bad team at all, but rather just young and struggle with consistency. With monster wins against two incredibly tough teams, The Utes have shown what they are capable of. Oregon State is no slouch of a team, but they can be beaten, especially on their home turf where they have a 7-4 record compared to 8-0 on the road and 3-1 on neutral ground.

The first pitch of the three-game-series in Corvallis is scheduled for Thursday, April 1 at 6:35 p.m. MST. Oregon State will be streaming the game through the Pac-12 network. 

 

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@JP_at_TheChrony