Utah Baseball to Host Northern Colorado in Three Game Weekend Series

University+of+Utah+freshman+Kai+Roberts+%28No.+27%29+in+a+NCAA+baseball+game+vs.+Washington+State+at+Smith%27s+Ballpark+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Saturday%2C+April+10%2C+2021.+%28Photo+by+Kevin+Cody+%7C+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Kevin Cody

University of Utah freshman Kai Roberts (No. 27) in a NCAA baseball game vs. Washington State at Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Justin Prather, Sports Writer

 

Utah Baseball will stay at home to host the University of Northern Colorado Bears in a three-game matchup this weekend. The series begins on Saturday, May 8, and is the last non-conference series the Utes will play this season and the first since playing BYU back in mid-March.

The Utes are coming off a weekend series down in Tucson that the Arizona Wildcats took 3-0, scoring 30 runs to Utah’s seven. Game two was the only one worth noting as far as positive performance for the Utah. The Utes recorded a team ERA of 2.25 from the mound in game two, compared to 12.36 and 14.63 in game one and three. Utah lost those games 1-11 with four hits and 3-15 with seven hits, respectively.

At this point, Utah has nothing to lose. They are 10-26 on the season and have won just under a quarter of their Pac-12 games at 5-16. They are second to last in the Conference of Champions, edging out only the Washington Huskies. Their only real option is to experiment with different lineups, get some bench players time on the diamond and begin looking at building for next season. From that perspective, a three-game series with a Western American Conference baseball team from Greeley, Colo. is a perfect jumping off point to begin looking beyond 2021.

Northern Colorado is in a similar position to Utah. The Bears are 11-26 on the season and 7-17 in the WAC, and are second to last in the conference. They have a decent team-wide batting average of .269, with their top four hitting over .300, and a .772 on base plus slugging. Their most worked pitcher, Dylan Bowers, has a stellar 70 strikeouts over 50 innings pitched but has also allowed a team-high 37 runs. Some of their lesser played pitchers, junior Logan Chase and freshman Dylan Day, have  3.09 and 3.77 ERAs and have recorded 11 and 14 strikeouts, respectively.

Utah’s bright spots were explored in the recap of the Arizona series. Both teams in the upcoming meeting could benefit from beginning to explore beyond their traditional mound starters. In Utah’s case, junior Justin Kelly, who started out strong coming off a year break, has been struggling late into the schedule. Kelly began the season in the top of the pack in ERA but has slipped down to the bottom with an 8.41, the worst among his teammates who have pitched at least 20 innings.

Younger pitchers, sophomore Matt Sox and freshman Ben Kibbe, have slowly been seeing more time at the strip and have shown decent command and a lot of promise. Heading into the end days of the season, with nothing but honor to play for, looking at other bullpen options should be on the table.

Rather than Smith’s Ballpark, this weekend’s games will be played in Ogden at Lindquist Field, home of the Pioneer League Ogden Raptors. The first pitch is scheduled for Saturday, May 8 at 6 p.m. MDT.

 

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