'Thursday Night Baseball' preview: Oregon at Utah

Who: Oregon at Utah

 

When: Thursday, March 30 at 6 p.m. PT/ 7 MT on Pac-12 Mountain and Oregon

 

On the call: JB Long and Wes Clements

 

On the home side: Utah (10-12-0, 1-5-0 Pac-12)

 

Thursday night’s game against the Oregon Ducks will mark Utah’s homer opener for conference play. The Utes will likely use the occasion to mark a fresh start in their schedule, as their current record (10-12 overall, 1-5 Pac-12) has left more to be desired.

 

The Utes started off hot, winning nine of their first 12 games. They’ve since cooled off, dropping eight of their last nine including a sweep by Washington. Five of those losses came in conference play against opponents ranked in the top 25.

 

Despite starting off conference play in second-to-last place, there are some bright spots for the Utes on offense. The Utes are third in the Pac-12 in batting average (.282), second in the league in hits (215) and third in total bases (295). The Utes’ offense will have to flex their muscles against a tough Ducks pitching staff that’s been nothing short of dominant this season.

 

Another positive note: the Utes will be celebrating their 2016 Pac-12 Championship on Saturday with the raising of a championship flag to commemorate the achievement.  

 

Utes to watch

 

Dallas Carrol, INF, senior:

 

Carrol is a big reason why the Utes are ranked in the upper half of the Pac-12 on offense. He ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in batting average (.395), third in the league in hits (34) and hits per game (1.55). Carrol is an especially tough customer for opposing pitchers due to his disciplined approach at the plate. Carrol is the second toughest player in the conference to strike out, averaging just a single strikeout every 14.3 plate appearances.

 

Jayson Rose,RHP, junior:

 

A bright spot in the Utes rotation, Rose is seventh in the conference in strikeouts (34). The Utes will need Rose to continue his dominance if they’re to get back on track and salvage the season.

 

On the away side: Oregon (16-6-0, 4-2-0 Pac-12)

 

Trending in a completely different direction than the Utes, the Ducks’ record has them in second place in the conference behind Oregon State. History is on the side of the Ducks heading into tonight, as they hold the all-time series lead against the Utes (11-4).

 

Ducks head coach George Horton could come closer to a milestone tonight as he sits just four Division I wins shy of 800 total. He got his 300th win as Oregon’s skipper on March 11 when the Ducks dominated Santa Clara 10-0.

 

A combination of stellar pitching and an impressive young core has propelled the Ducks to their current record, whether their lack of experience will hurt them going forward remains to be seen. For now, the Ducks should be proud of what they’ve achieved so far this season. The Ducks will look for another series win against a Utes team that’s still trying to find it’s bearing in Pac-12 play.

 

Ducks to watch:

 

David Peterson, LHP, junior:

 

The junior southpaw from Denver has been nothing short of spectacular for the Ducks this season. Peterson, who's riding a five-game win streak, is nationally ranked in the top 21 in five different categories for pitching including first in victories (5), sixth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (12.00), 10th in strikeouts, 18th in walks allowed per nine innings (0.92) and 21st in strikeouts per nine innings (12.91).

 

Freshmen getting it done for the Ducks:

 

The Ducks have field ten different freshmen (nine true and one redshirt) this season. Seven different freshman have made starts including INF Morgan McCullough (started every game), INF Spencer Steer, INF/DH Gabe Mathews, C/OF Matthew Dyer, RHP Kenyon Yovan, OF Braden Stutzman and RHP James Acuna. Righty Kenyon Yovan has made one of the biggest impacts of the crop, accumulating eight saves while serving as the Ducks’ closer.

 

Story to watch:

 

If Utah has any hopes of salvaging the early part of this season, they’ll need a big win tonight against Oregon. The Ducks have fielded a very young core, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to impress in conference play. If the Ducks have aspirations of winning the conference title, they’ll need to take care of business against lesser opponents like the Utes.

 

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