Utah Baseball Take Game One, Drops Series to Huskies

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Kevin Cody

University of Utah redshirt junior Vinny Zavolta (6) 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

 

The University of Utah baseball team traveled up to Seattle for a three game series against the University of Washington Huskies. Coming into the weekend, Utah lost three to Oregon and won a midweek game down in Provo against BYU. The Huskies have been struggling as much as the Utes this season having only won three conference games to Utah’s five before the matchup. Utah took game one but ultimately lost the series when they dropped the last two.

A Short Trip Down South

Utah’s game against BYU on Tuesday, May 18 showed positive signs the Utes might finish a lackluster season with confidence. Utah led off with a bomber first inning at the plate with five runs and added six more across the third, fourth and fifth. At the same time they held the Cougars for the first three innings to take an 8-0 lead. 

BYU had a couple strong innings at the plate midway through but Utah always answered back and remained comfortably ahead. Jaylon McLaughlin had an uncharacteristic slump at the plate, but teammates Matt Richardson (2-5), Chris Rowan Jr. (3-4) and Shea Kramer (2-5) all stepped up to take the pressure off, accounting for half of Utah’s runs. For fans searching desperately for a silver lining as the rough season comes to a close, Utah is 3-1 against the Team Down South in 2021.

A Long Trek Up North

Utah rode the momentum from the win over BYU to Seattle. No one felt it more than pitcher Justin Kelly who has been regaining command on the mound after a tough mid-season slide. Kelly looked okay against Oregon after a perfect four inning stint against Northern Colorado where he had a season-high nine strikeouts.

Against Washington, Kelly’s focus was unquestionable. In seven innings he allowed only two runs off of seven hits and sent seven Husky batters back to the dugout, ending the game with a 2.57 game ERA. Utah hasn’t seen Kelly perform this well against a conference opponent since back in March against Stanford.

At the plate Chase Fernlund got Utah on the board first with a double down the third base line to score two. Fernlund would be the only Utah batter with multiple hits on the night. Richardson would bring in the third and final run of the second inning on an error that gave Brock Rudy an opportunity to come home.

Washington answered with a two-run homer, Kelly’s only dark spot of the game. The Huskies would add another run in the eighth but it wouldn’t be enough and Utah took the game 7-3.

In the second game neither team brought their bats, each only tallying four hits. Washington managed to hold the lead on a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Utah added one in the eighth but ultimately dropped the game 2-1.

The third game score was also close with a one-run spread. Washington went up early with four unanswered runs. Utah got their first run on the board in the fifth and maintained pressure with runs in every successive inning until the ninth. The Utes threatened in the seventh after McLaughlin singled and stole second to set up Kai Roberts for the RBI on a single. Roberts also stole second to set up Rykker Tom for the go ahead, but was thrown out heading home on Tom’s single to end the inning one down 5-4. The Utes and the Huskies traded runs in the bottom of the seventh and top of the eighth to end at 6-5. 

Utah moves to 6-21 in Pac-12 play and even with two losses to Washington they maintain a one game lead to stop them from falling to last place in the conference. The 2021 season wraps up this weekend with a three-game series at home against the USC Trojans. The games will be played in Ogden at Lindquist Field with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. MDT this Thursday, May 27.

 

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@JP_at_TheChrony