Utah baseball: Improved Utes open Pac-12 home schedule
It's all about pitching for the Utah baseball team.
Mound performance was a glaring weakness for the Utes, who struggled throughout 2012, their first season as part of the Pac-12.
So far in 2013, however, Utah's pitching has held up. Despite an inconsistent offense, Ute hurlers have cut nearly two runs from last season's earned-run average.
And that makes a difference as Utah (8-6) opens its home and Pac-12 schedule 6 p.m. Friday against California at Spring Mobile Ballpark, the first of a three-game series. The Utes are coming off a successful road trip, taking 3 of 4 games at St. Mary's, a series in which they allowed just seven runs.
"We pitched extremely well again," Utah coach Bill Kinneberg said. "We scored enough runs in three games to win, although I am a little disappointed in the game that we lost. Guys are making progress, and we've got to get a couple of guys going so we are a threat throughout the lineup. The one thing this club is doing is playing really hard and they are really focused, so they are a fun group to watch."
Utah, which started 2012 by going 3-11 before finishing 14-42, has fashioned a team ERA of 3.40, paced by starters Tanner Banks at 2.48 and Brock Duke, 2.95. Banks has had some hard luck in going 1-3. He's allowed three runs in two of those losses.
Mitch Watrous, who fanned 12 in his last outing to tie the school record, gets the start on Friday, followed by Joe Pond on Saturday.
Sunday's starter is to be determined.
California (10-7) has won five in a row, including a four-game sweep of Fresno State.
"It's been a good four weeks of travel, the guys have really handled it well, but we are still a work in progress," Kinneberg said. "We have a lot of guys playing, and depth is good, and we are looking forward to playing at home."
Utah vs. Cal
O At Spring Mobile Ballpark
• Friday, 6 p.m.
• Saturday, 3 p.m.
• Sunday, 1 p.m.