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College baseball: Southern Utah mourns, celebrates dropped program
College athletics » Southern Utah is cutting the program for its move to Big Sky Conference.

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"That was the lump of coal in the back of everyone’s mind," he said.

At a glance

What they’re saying about SUU baseball

Senior Bo Cuthbertson » “There’s no place like this. It’s always windy — always crazy. Crazy things happen all the time. Lots of runs. Exciting games. It’s been fun to play here because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Sophomore Jesse Bristow » “SUU gave a kid like me — someone from a small high school in Utah — the chance to walk on and play at a four-year in-state school. It’s something that’s not available everywhere you go.”

Senior Marcus Romero » “Of course we’re sad. Everyone is very sad. But it’s my last year and I don’t have to go out and look for another school. I feel really bad for the underclassmen. It’s been rough on them.”

Summit League Tournament

Southern Utah’s season isn’t over yet. As one of the top four teams in the Summit League, the Thunderbirds have qualified for the conference tournament, which begins Thursday at Johnson Stadium in Tulsa, Okla. The pairings:

» SUU (12-11, 18-34) is the No. 4 seed and will play No. 1 seed Oral Roberts (17-6, 33-22)

» No. 2 Oakland (15-6, 23-29) and No. 3 North Dakota State (14-10, 38-18) play in the other game.

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A bombshell » As March turned to April, SUU was outscored 60-12 during a four-game losing streak. Its record dropped to 6-20.

Then, another bombshell.

Coach Dave Eldredge and assistant Chase Hudson were fired for reportedly failing to follow state policy while purchasing equipment.

"That was even more shocking than the program getting cut," said junior Kelsey Outram. "They just called us before practice and said two of our coaches were let go. Nobody knew what happened."

Carson suddenly found himself running a Division I program — his first head coaching job. Department administrator Kit Janes became his assistant.

The firings were "another big blow for us," Carson said. "But I thought our team looked around and said, ‘Hey, it’s us against the world.’ I felt it was a rallying point."

SUU won 12 of its next 23 games, including a 6-0 victory over perennial conference power Oral Roberts.

"Everybody was hanging their heads for a while," said junior Justin Neubauer. "It was rough. But we’ve come together."

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story continues below

Just in time for the end.

"Everybody wants to keep playing" » In the coming months, Thunderbird Field will become home to the SUU women’s soccer team. Those who played on it during the school’s final baseball season will scatter.

Carson would like to continue coaching but has no idea where the path might lead.

Among the players, Outram has an offer from St. Mary’s and Chase Rezac is headed to the University of Utah. Sophomores Kolby Rimer and Jesse Bristow will play at Colorado State-Pueblo.

Players such as Neubauer, who is talking to UNLV, Oral Roberts and Oregon, remain immersed in the recruiting process.

Still others, including Staton and Ronnie Burton Jr., hope summer-league participation will lead to scholarships.

If Burton finds a new school, it will be his fourth in five years. He started at Pacific and transferred to a junior college before signing with SUU last year.

"College athletics is big business, and football is moving to the Big Sky," Burton said. "That’s something I can’t control, so for me, it’s on to the next thing. Another journey."

Sadly, some baseball careers will end with the final out of Southern Utah’s final game.

Low, with two years of eligibility remaining, isn’t "sure what I’m going to do. I don’t have any nibbles right now. So I might have to think about my education and stay."

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