Utah, which started 0-13 and lost 19 of its first 23, shook up the college baseball universe over the weekend by winning two of three against an Oregon State team that has been the most dominant in the country.
Utes coach Bill Kinneberg didn’t want to minimize the accomplishment. Neither did he make a big a deal out of it, noting the Beavers have been without Nick Madrigal, the reigning Pac-12 player of the year who is out injured.
Still, this was mighty Oregon State. The Beavers went into Salt Lake City as the consensus No. 1 team in the polls for three weeks and winner of 76 of its last 84 games. Utah entered No. 239 out of 297 in the RPI and had lost 24 of its previous 33 Pac-12 games.
“When you play a 56-game schedule, you’re going to have your ups and downs,” Kinneberg said Monday, “and maybe we caught Oregon State at the right time.”
The time surely didn’t seem right for the Utes (6-20, 3-3 Pac-12). The university suspended Kinneberg for the first 14 games for an NCAA rules violation involving a former staff member who took part in impermissible practice and coaching activities. The Utes were having trouble scoring and were 1-7 in one-run games. There also has been an incredible run of injuries.
Center fielder DaShawn Keirsey (hamstring) has been limited to being the designated hitter for a month. Left fielder Chandler Anderson (shoulder) ran into the wall trying to make a play two weeks ago. Dominic Foscalina, who moved from right to center when Keirsey got hurt, sustained a concussion when he was hit by a pitch in the opener against Oregon State. That required freshman reserve shortstop Davis Delorefice, who had never played center field, to take over for Foscalina for the rest of the series.
The pitching staff is missing Friday night starter Kyle Robeniol (oblique) and reliever Ian MacIver (elbow), and the Utes already were without returning starting catcher Zack Moeller (Tommy John surgery).
The Utes won the opener 8-7 Thursday, with submarine-style reliever Trenton Stoltz pitching four strong innings and Jacob Rebar getting the last two outs. Utah squandered a 5-2 seventh-inning lead in the second game and lost 9-5.
Utah started six freshmen on Saturday as it ended Oregon State’s streak of 14 Pac-12 series wins with an 11-8 victory, the most runs against the Beavers (21-4, 6-3) since February 2016.
“It was great to see them smiling, great to see them excited,” Kinneberg said of his players. “Most of all, I really enjoyed watching them compete. That is something at times we weren’t doing. We had a great weekend, loved it.”
Now it’s time to turn the page. He was looking ahead to BYU and Cal this week.
“You really don’t have time to reflect and pat yourself on the back,” Kinneberg said. “Yeah, it’s fun, and it’s great for the guys to have some success. We’ve got to move on and keep grinding.”
IN THE POLLS
Preseason No. 1 Florida (25-5) returned to the top spot in the major polls and Stanford (20-3) is No. 2. Mississippi (25-4) is No. 3 by D1Baseball.com and Baseball America; Oregon State is No. 3 by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
Duke (24-5, 9-3 ACC) is in first place by a game over North Carolina in the Coastal Division after posting its first conference sweep since 2014. The Blue Devils rode a 12-run eighth inning to a 16-4 win over Notre Dame on Sunday. They’re off to their best start since 1996.
National stolen base leader Jacob Hurtubise set an Army record and tied the Patriot League mark with six steals in a 4-1 loss to Bucknell on Saturday. Hurtubise stole second and third after each of his first three plate appearances and has 22 for the season.
Tyrus Lopez set a national season high for innings pitched when he went all 10 in Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s 6-5 win over Prairie View A&M on Sunday. Lopez (4-2) allowed 11 hits, walked two and struck out six. Lopez also picked up a win Friday, working two-thirds of an inning in relief.
BLUE BOUNCES BACK
Michigan (16-11) is tied with Tennessee Tech for longest win streak, having rolled off 12 in a row since an embarrassing 8-3 loss to NAIA Division II Lawrence Tech. However, none of the six opponents during the streak were higher than 205th in the RPI, and 11 of the 12 games were played in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines don’t play a top-100 opponent until Maryland on April 13.