This week's BYU-Utah baseball games have a little different meaning than most encounters between the in-state rivals.
Usually, by this point, the Cougars are high in the WAC standings and looking ahead to the mid-May league tournament. The Utes, on the other hand, typically are trying to earn a little respect by beating the Cougs.This time, both teams are in the middle of the WAC pack and hoping to make the four-team tournament field. The Utes are 4-6 (15-24 overall) after splitting a doubleheader with San Diego State last week (a second doubleheader was rained out); the Cougs beat Air Force three times last week, improving to 3-4 (18-9 overall).
On the surface, at least, Utah seems to have its best chance in a long time of hurting the Cougs when they meet Tuesday in Provo at 2 p.m. and Wednesday at Derks Field at 7 p.m.
The Cougars' biggest advantage is pitching. They have a staff ERA of 4.29, four starters with ERAs under 5.00, and a reliever, Ryan Hancock, with an ERA of 1.20 and 35 strikeouts in 15 innings before the Air Force series. Utah's staff ERA is 7.22.
Where the Utes may be the Cougs' equal is at the plate. Led by WAC batting and home run leader Mike Edwards (.425, 13), Utah hits .311 as a team, compared to BYU's .291.