College baseball: Health only thing slowing down Utes' Davis
Kody Davis hit a flare over the shortstop's head and was thinking double all the way.
He rounded first base at full speed, barreled head-first into second, then stayed motionless on the ground, cradling the base after the umpire signaled he was safe.
"Not again," was the immediate reaction, along with a slam of his batting helmet. Not another injury for the Utah Utes second baseman and former Juan Diego standout.
Davis' left shoulder had popped out of place the same injury he sustained earlier this year.
"I hadn't had any problems, but I dove into second base and it came out again," the redshirt freshman said after the Utes' 15-10 extra-inning loss to USC on Sunday. "It went right back in after a couple of minutes."
It's been a brief yet painful collegiate career for Davis, who was The Tribune's Class 3A MVP in 2011 when he hit .506 as the Soaring Eagle's shortstop. His first season with the Utes was cut short after he broke his leg trying to turn a double play against UC Santa Barbara.
This season, he has dislocated his shoulder twice and played with a broken hand.
"When he's healthy, he can do a lot of things for us," Utes coach Bill Kinneberg said. "He's playing hurt. I'd really like to see him at full strength to see how good he can really be.
"He brings a lot of things to the table with his intensity, his style of play and his versatility at the plate. He can bunt, he can run and he has a knack for squaring balls up."
Despite the growing number of ailments, Davis has been a major contributor for Utah, which entered the week 16-19 overall, including 5-13 in the Pac-12 after taking one of three against the Trojans.
Davis' .284 batting average is second on the team, and his 10 multi-hit games and 13 stolen bases are tops among the Utes.
"It's what I expected of myself, so I can't say I'm surprised," Davis said. "I'm really enjoying it, and it's a lot of fun."
He has started 29 games at second base and taken little time adjusting to the collegiate game.
"Ever since I've known him, he's been a great competitor," said Utes reliever Luke West, who played with Davis at Juan Diego. "In high school, he had it, and I knew he'd have it coming here. I was real happy when he signed because I knew how great a player he would be."
The former Juan Diego teammates have more than carried their weight on a roster full of young local talent.
West entered the week 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 relief appearances. He threw four innings of relief Sunday and settled a USC lineup that scored eight runs in the first three innings.
The Utes expect more local talent to stay close to home with the opportunity to play in the highly competitive Pac-12, against teams with the national cache of USC, UCLA and Oregon State, among others.
"It's every pitch, every play, everything has to be perfect if we want to win," West said, comparing play in the Pac-12 to the Mountain West.
Davis, who chose Utah because it's close to home, said the program is on the cusp of turning the corner and climbing the standings.
"I fell really, really good about it," Davis said. "We've taken steps every day, and it's only a matter of time before we really get going."
Former Juan Diego standout Kody Davis is the Utah Utes' starting second baseman as a redshirt freshman.
Davis enters the week second on the team in batting (.284) and leads the team in multi-hits games (10) and stolen bases (13).
Davis' freshman season was cut short by a broken leg sustained trying to turn a double play.