It was a bittersweet Sunday for 11 Utes playing their last baseball at Smith’s Ballpark, and it ended on a sour note.
Utah (16-36 overall, 4-26 Pac-12) was edged twice in a doubleheader for a series sweep by Stanford (30-23 16-14 Pac-12), first 9-7 and then 3-2, to wrap up a disappointing 2014 campaign.
"We lost a lot of games this year, but they never quit playing," said Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg. "[It was] typical today, losing by two, losing by one against a very good club and battling all the way through. ... But we’re still not there. We don’t have the punch yet to get that done."
Taking their last swing at their fifth Pac-12 victory, Utah took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on a Wyler Smith single to left, but Stanford roared back in the fourth. First, Austin Slater doubled home Alex Blandino, then Zach Hoffpauir followed with a two-run shot to left.
Senior catcher Konnor Armijo drove home Wyler Smith with a double in the bottom of the eighth to make it a one-run game, but the Utes were shut down by Cardinal reliever Marcus Brakeman, who notched the save. Stanford’s Logan James went 7 and 2/3 innings, allowing two runs in the win, while Utah’s Dalton Carroll picked up a hard-luck loss (1-5) after seven innings, conceding three.
Also a safety on Stanford’s football team, Hoffpauir went yard twice Sunday after going 5-for-5 in the series opener, a 5-0 Stanford win Friday.
The first game started at 10 a.m. with about as many players in the dugout as fans in the stands. The Utes were on a strict timeline after Saturday’s game was rained out, with the Salt Lake Bees due to begin batting practice at 4 p.m. Sunday, and the early start led to a late-arriving crowd of 1,889.
Senior first baseman T.J. Bennett went 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the loss, while sophomore second baseman Kody Davis went 3-for-4 as the Utes racked up 10 hits.
The Utes took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth when freshman left fielder Hunter Simmons’ RBI single to right plated fellow freshman Josh Rose, but Stanford scored four in the seventh, including three on what would turn out to be a game-winning inside-the-park home run off the left-center field fence from sophomore Stanford right fielder Zach Hoffpauir. Junior third baseman Alex Blandino also hit a home run for the Cardinal, his 11th of the season (tied for second in the Pac-12).
John Hochstatter got the win for the Cardinal, moving to 10-1 after conceding five runs in six innings. Senior southpaw Tanner Banks (2-7) was dealt the loss.
"It’s been a hard year," Kinneberg said. "You’re sad for the seniors that their careers are done, but then you start to look at next year and hopefully the improvements that you’re going to make."
Between games the Utes honored departing seniors Zach Adams, Braden Anderson, Armijo, Banks, Bennett, Josh Chapman, Nick Green, Cory Hunt, Tyler Yagi, Ben Mordini and Luke West.
"We were just kind of savoring every moment, ever since we first got here this morning," Bennett said, adding, "It’s hard to see it all come to an end for some guys who are never going to play ball again. That’s a tough pill to swallow; it’s tough when you’ve put your whole life into this."
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