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Utah sports notes: Hunter Simmons named Pac-12 baseball player of the week

First Published      Last Updated Feb 28 2017 07:27 pm


Hunter Simmons’ opening weekend was subpar by his standards. In 15 at-bats, he lodged one hit.

The Utes’ senior first baseman, who batted .339 last year, didn’t let himself get bogged down by a slow start.

"I just told myself, ‘You know what? I’ve done this before. I know I’m good,’" he said. "‘I can do it. I just need to do it and let it happen.’ It’s just kind of mental for me to know that I’m here and I can do it."

Something clicked for Simmons who helped Utah go 3-1 in the Pac-12/Big 10 challenge with wins over Nebraska and Ohio State while batting 9 for 16 with six RBI in four games. His plate performances — which included a 4 for 4 game against the Cornhuskers — propelled him to Pac-12 player of the week honors for the second time in his career.



Simmons is now tied for team lead with 7 RBI on the season, including outfielder Josh Rose and infielder Oliver Dunn, for the 5-2 Utes who have started close to how hot they finished last season when they won the Pac-12.

Utah entered the National College Baseball Writers Association poll for the first time this week at No. 24 after starting the season with many skeptics that they could repeat the feat this season.

"It does give some credibility to our program, which is great," coach Bill Kinneberg said of the ranking. "And our guys have earned it. We played well on the road. And I think we could be a top 25 team. It’s nice, but really early."

Kinneberg said Simmons made some batting adjustments in practice, helping him bounce back at the plate. Added Kinneberg: "I was really proud of him for that."

Utah’s season continues with a trip to Texas this weekend to face UT San Antonio. The Utes begin their home schedule next weekend at Smith’s Ballpark with a series against New Mexico State.

Utah ski team selected for NCAAs • The Skiin’ Utes will have another shot at adding a title to their 10 national championships next weekend.

Utah has been selected to field a full team of 12 skiers to the NCAA Championships, which begins March 8 in New Hampshire. Utah has finished third each of the last two years.

The Utes are coming off a third-place finish at regionals to rivals Colorado and Denver, but field five All-Americans from 2016, including two returning NCAA champions in Julie Mohagen (slalom) and Endre Bjertness (giant slalom).

In nordic disciplines, the Utes will field a team of Merete Myrseth, Guro Jordheim and Natalia Müller for the women’s side, and Kevin Bolger, Martin Bergström and Martin Mikkelsen for the men. On alpine, veterans and All-Americans Roni Remme and Chloe Fausa will join Mohagen, while Bjertness will be joined by Sam Dupratt and Joergen Brath.

Utah’s last team national championship came in 2003.

Alyssa Barrera earns weekly honors • Speaking of strong individual performances, Utah freshman Alyssa Barerra turned some heads with her performance at the Mary Nutter Classic, where the Utes went 3-2 with wins over ranked Tennessee and LSU.

Barerra led with a .438 batting average over the weekend while slugging .563. The outfielder, who was ranked a top 10 recruit by Flo Softball, also continued her streak of reaching base safely in all 13 of her college games so far.

For the season, Barrera is tied with senior Hannah Flippen (the returning Pac-12 player of the year) for team lead with a .486 batting average. She’s second behind Flippen with 14 runs on the year and with a .574 on-base percentage.

Utah has begun the season 11-2, and plays this weekend at the Red Desert Classic in St. George.

kgoon@sltrib.com
Twitter: @kylegoon

 

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