For the past three weekends, the University of Utah baseball team has escaped the snow and headed to St. George for practices and scrimmages. Now, they’re headed for a warmer climate to begin the season.
The Utes kick off the 2013 campaign Friday through Sunday at Loyola Marymount.
“Our guys are ready to play and get this season going,” said Utah coach Bill Kinneberg, who noted that the Utes have put in a lot of work over the fall and winter to prepare for their second year in the Pac-12.
Although Utah has a veteran group of pitchers, the Utes are quite young overall. They may have four or five freshmen in the batting order.
“I’ve never gone into a season with this many freshmen but they’re going to get their feet wet by April and hopefully get up to speed,” Kinneberg said. “These guys are going to be outstanding players in a year or two and be leaders for our team, guys that we can count on to really propel us in the Pac-12.”
The promising newcomers include catcher A.J. Young, shortstop Cody Scaggari and third baseman Dallas Carroll. Left fielder Wyler Smith and redshirt second baseman Kody Davis are other freshmen on the season-opening depth chart.
“Hopefully these guys grow real quick and they’re ready to play,” Kinneberg said.
The newcomers are blending with an experienced group that includes starting pitchers Brock Duke and Joe Pond, reliever Mitch Watrous, outfielder Tyler Relf and first baseman Trey Nielsen.
Top junior college transfers include pitcher Tanner Banks, second baseman T.J. Bennett, outfielder Braden Anderson and catcher Konnor Armijo.
Junior outfielder Tyler Yagi, the 2009 Mountain West Conference Tournament MVP, is back after serving an LDS Church mission.
Another addition of note is pitcher/designated hitter Chase Rezac, who joined the Utes after Southern Utah opted to drop its baseball program.
After the season-opening series at LMU, Utah will head to UC Davis (Feb. 22-25). A tournament in Minneapolis (March 1-3) and four-game trip to Saint Mary’s follow before the Utes’ home and conference opener against California, March 15-17 at Spring Mobile Ballpark. Other Pac-12 teams scheduled to visit Salt Lake City this season include Washington State (April 5-7), USC (April 19-21), Arizona State (April 26-28) and Oregon (May 24-26).