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Utes still swinging in injury-plagued season

Published: Monday, April 28 2014 8:37 p.m. MDT

The University of Utah's Kody Davis gets Nevada's Bryce Greager out at second base and throws the ball to first for a double play during a baseball game at Smith's Ballpark in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 25, 2014. Utah won the nonconference game 12-0 but has struggled in the difficult Pac-12.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg is no rookie. The veteran skipper picked up his 500th career victory in a non-conference win over Nevada on Friday.

Kinneberg downplays the milestone, noting that it just means he’s coached a lot of games. Even so, Kinneberg acknowledges being fortunate to be around the sport for such a long time.

With head coaching stints at UTEP, Wyoming and Utah, Kinneberg has led each program to school records in terms of wins in a season.

Some guys, though, are never satisfied.

“I don’t particularly like the overall record too much right now,” said Kinneberg, whose career mark is 500-506 — impressive considering his stops have been at schools far less baseball-oriented than assistant coaching stints he made at alma mater Arizona and Arizona State.

“I guess none of the places I’ve been at have been easy. But it’s still a game that you compete and you try to win,” Kinneberg said. “At the end of the day, you win or lose. It’s not like a lot of other things that we do. It’s a win or a loss and so I’ve been through a lot of wins and I’ve been through a lot of losses.”

It’s the latter, particularly those this season, that weigh most heavily at this point.

Utah enters this weekend’s home series with Washington at 13-25 overall and 3-15 in Pac-12 play.

“It’s been a really hard year to this point. It can always change and we can always end up on a positive note, but we had high aspirations going into this spring,” Kinneberg said. “At the end of fall and the beginning of February, I really thought we were ready to make a real move in the Pac-12 because of our pitching staff and the nucleus of the guys coming back — and most of all, and this hasn’t changed, is the attitude of our players.

“This is as good of a group as I’ve ever had as far as being dedicated to the game, wanting to do well,” he added. “This group has worked their tails off to be in a positive situation this year.”

Early injuries took a toll, though, leaving the Utes shorthanded.

It started in the first game of the season when sophomore Dallas Carroll, who made 28 starts at third base and hit .282 in 2013, broke his collarbone.

And there’s more, much more.

Knee injuries have adversely impacted senior outfielders Tyler Yagi and Braden Anderson. Yagi, who has a .313 batting average, has played in just eight games. Anderson, meanwhile, hasn’t attempted a single stolen base this season after ranking third in the conference last season with 16 thefts. Kinneberg said the former Bingham High star is playing at about 80 percent because of injury.

Sophomore catcher A.J. Young has also had a tough time. He’s played in just 18 games because of a concussion. Then there’s senior pitcher Brock Duke, who has been sidelined after Tommy John surgery.

Although Kinneberg notes that you never know if things would be different if everybody had stayed healthy, he does acknowledge that the injuries have had an impact.

“It’s taken something out of us,” Kinneberg said. “But those are kind of excuses and you’ve got to overcome those.”

Despite their record, the Utes have been relatively competitive in Pac-12 contests. They’ve lost four games by one run and three by two scores.

Kinneberg, however, takes no solace in the close setbacks.

“It’s a win or a loss and whether you lose by one or lose by 15 it really doesn’t matter,” he said, adding that at the end of the day it’s either a “W” or it’s not.

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