Utah baseball: Carroll brothers eager to help turn around program
Dalton and Dallas Carroll learned to play baseball together in their backyard. Baseball was just one of many things the twins, born within minutes of each other, learned simultaneously. As identical twins, they've always been reflections of each other, and baseball was no different.
So when it came time to decide where to compete at the collegiate level, the choice was easy for the former Taylorsville High stars.
"It was hard to imagine not being on the same team," said right-handed pitcher Dalton Carroll about his and his brother's decision to sign with the University of Utah. "So when Utah offered, it was a chance to stick together and play in front of our family and friends. It seemed like the thing to do."
The Utes' move to the Pac-12 Conference, arguably the strongest baseball conference in the NCAA, made the choice that much easier.
"It was definitely an added bonus," said Dallas, who finished the season with a .282 batting average and 29 hits, including three doubles and two triples. "The combination of the conference, the academics and the location just convinced us Utah was the right choice."
The twins were at the forefront of Utah's Pac-12 adaptation as freshmen with starting roles for the Utes.
It's a whole new world for the Carroll brothers.
During high school, Dalton and Dallas were accustomed to a few dozen people in the stands. Games at Oregon and Arizona State attract thousands. As high-school seniors, the twins were among the best players in the state. Now they're playing against entire teams of former MVPs.
"It took some getting used to," Dallas said. "But, I mean, it's just baseball. It's the same game. You've just gotta remember that and slow it down."
A stress fracture turned full-blown break early in the season and put the brakes on Dallas. He was able to return for the final few weeks of the season.
Dalton remained injury-free in his first season, but the transition wasn't without its challenges.
"It's been tough, I'm not gonna lie," said Dalton, who finished the season with a 3.89 ERA and two conference wins. "But we're playing with the best, week in and week out, and it's only going to make us and the whole team better."
So far, so good.
Utah expected the first year of Pac-12 competition would be a challenge. A 6-23 conference record confirmed the challenge.
While a seven-win conference record in 2013 spoke to stagnation on paper, the margins said something much different. Gone were the 16-0 blowouts, replaced by a slew of disappointing but promising one-run losses. A stolen series from Stanford and 21-31 overall record a seven-win improvement over last season point to progress.
"We don't want to be viewed as an easy win in this conference," Dallas said. "I think that mentality is already starting to change."
The Utes' season-ending 10-3 win over No. 8 Oregon on Sunday helped that cause, and it's exactly the kind of statement the Utes were hoping to make on their way out.
"The future looks bright, and we've made a lot of improvements," Dalton said. "That's something we can build on next year."