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Utah’s baseball team faces a stacked deck in the Pac-12
College baseball » In one of toughest leagues in country, Utah lacks its own ballpark and good year-round weather.

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The Utes draw just north of 1,000 fans per game, but at the downtown 15,400-seat Smith’s Ballpark, 1,000 is more of a gang than a crowd.

Sophomore outfielder Kody Davis is the son of a former Ute (Troy Davis, 1983-86) and hopes for a return, someday, to the campus digs he watched them play on growing up.

At a glance

Pac-12 baseball standings

1. Oregon St. 20-4 38-8

2. Washington 19-5 36-11

T-3. Oregon 14-10 35-16

T-3. Arizona St. 14-10 26-21

5. USC 14-13 26-22

6. Wash. St. 12-12 22-24

7. Stanford 11-13 24-21

8. UCLA 10-14 23-25-1

9. Cal 9-15 21-25

10. Arizona 8-19 19-30

11. Utah 4-20 15-30

Utah vs. BYU

When » 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where » Smith’s Ballpark

Series » BYU leads 2-1

TV » Pac-12 Network

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Of Smith’s, he says, "it’s a great playing surface. The grounds crew takes care of us. But it would be nice to have a field on campus, where we would get more people out there to support us."

Armijo put it this way: "It can feel like we’re playing away on our home field."

Kinneberg says visiting teams are uniformly wowed by the view and field conditions at Smith’s, which he believes is "far and away" the best ballpark in the Western U.S.

Beggars couldn’t choose better.

"But it’s not ours," he admits. They aren’t able to practice often at Smith’s, and when the Bees are in town, they have to play earlier in the day.

Stocker adds that Pac-12 North schools have turf that allows them to brave snow and rain. Such a field might kill two birds for Utah.

State of players » The move to the Pac-12 has helped Utah "get its foot in some doors," so to speak.

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Armijo, from Corona Calif., said that as a SoCal kid "you always dream of playing in the Pac-12."

He was also recruited out of Santa Ana College by Oregon, but only as a preferred walk-on, and he felt the Ducks were trying to sell him on swanky gear and not the brand of togetherness and kinship Kinneberg preached at the U.

So he’s proof: Utah can win those out-of-state battles.

But in-state recruits go further.

Baseball teams get 11.7 full scholarships, and they can parse those out to as many as 27 players. In-state players require less aid, so for a team like the Utes that relies more commonly on out-of-state talent, it is hard to balance the scholarships as evenly some teams drawing from baseball-mad California or Arizona.

"Our team has to have a makeup of Utah kids, there’s no doubt about that," Kinneberg says. "The state of high school baseball here is very important to us and BYU and Utah Valley, because the core of our clubs are going to come from this state."

Without Utah kids, it’s tougher to foster depth because you can’t offer scholarships to as many players. Stocker said that against Washington State on Sunday, "There was a point where [Utah] only had two guys on the bench that were healthy enough to come in."

Renewed hope » The U.’s starting lineup likely won’t be hit too hard between graduations and the MLB draft in June, but they’ll bid farewell to a handful of arms.

Zach Adams and Tanner Banks will be gone, and five freshman pitchers (should they all remain committed through the draft) will be asked to play central roles right away.

First, though, this year’s Utes have six more Pac-12 games to best the 7-23 marks from Pac-12 seasons 1 and 2, and Tuesday night they’ll try to even their season series against BYU at 2-2.

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