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New Look Utes Ready for 2022 Baseball Season

Feb 14, 2022

There's nothing quite like the sights and sounds of a ballpark. You know them, right?
 
Sights: the outfield in pristine shape after a fresh cut, the batter's box and foul lines newly painted, the infield just dragged.
 
Sounds: the crack of the bat, ball hitting glove, the crowd wowed by a filthy slider for strike three or a web gem catch.
 
They're all the typical baseball things you know from Field of Dreams, and there's just something special about it all. At long last, it's time to welcome back those hallmarks (and many, many more) of this beautiful game.
 
Well, almost. Just days separate Utah from being back on the diamond, as the Utes begin the 2022 season at Loyola Marymount on Friday, Feb. 18. It marks the beginning of a new chapter for the ballclub, entering its first season under head coach Gary Henderson after Henderson spent two seasons as associate head coach under former longtime skipper Bill Kinneberg.
 
The Utes return a core of experienced veterans from '21, while also welcoming one of the largest groups of newcomers in program history.
 
"In terms of the roster, there's a lot of new bodies," said Henderson. "We have a really good group of people. We have some areas to improve upon from last year, but we will. It will take a little bit of time, but we've got good kids and a good coaching staff with a lot of experience. We'll work really hard."
 
It all starts on the mound and the Utes pitching staff has that share of both returners and new faces. Right-hander Matthew Sox is expected to move into the starting rotation after spending 2021 primarily out of the bullpen. Sox went 5-2 with a save in his 20 relief appearances last year. Also back, and making a similar move to a starting role, is Randon Hostert, the Idaho native who was 3-0 out of the 'pen a year ago. True freshman Cam Day, the No. 1-ranked high school player in Utah in the Class of 2021, will compete for a spot in the weekend rotation as well.
 

Right-handed pitcher Matthew Sox (La Cañada, Calif.)

 
Sox, Hostert and Blake Whiting, a transfer from Salt Lake Community College, each are ranked in D1Baseball's Top 50 Prospects from the Pac-12 in the 2022 MLB Draft. Day is listed among D1Baseball's Pac-12 Impact Freshmen. Whiting has the potential to see time in the closer role as well.
 
Jayden Kiernan is back behind the plate, coming off a '21 campaign where Kiernan hit .325 with six doubles and 17 RBI en route to Pac-12 All-Conference Honorable Mention.
 

Jayden Kiernan (Corona, Calif.) leads the charge for the Utes at catcher

 
Taking a look around the infield, the Utes will look to shortstop Matt Richardson to lead the charge. Richardson played in 44 games a year ago and hit a team-leading .360 at the plate, to go along with 10 doubles, a triple, two home runs and 28 RBI. On the right side of the infield, Chase Anderson is projected to start at second base as a transfer from Pacific University, where Anderson was the 2021 ABCA Regional Position Player of the Year. Two-way player TJ Clarkson holds down the fort again at first base, and may see an occasional relief appearance on the mound. He's backed up at first by West Jordan, Utah, native Alex Baeza who began his college career at Hawai'i.
 

Shortstop Matt Richardson (San Diego, Calif.)

 

Rounding out the lineup, it's expected Kai Roberts will primarily play in the outfield in 2022. A .291 hitter last season, Roberts started all 50 games during '21 with time both in the infield and outfield, as well as at DH. Newcomers Carter Booth and Jackson Clemett figure to be in the mix in the outfield, with Booth bringing two years of junior college action at Everett Community College in Washington. Booth capped that stint of his career earned ABCA Pacific Association Division Gold Glove Team honors in 2021.
 

Kai Roberts (Lehi, Utah)

 
Opportunity awaits Utah baseball in the '22 season, and the Utes will look to start things off on a high note during the LMU series. The squad will play 11 of its first 13 games in the state California before Opening Day at Smith's Ballpark, slated for March 11 vs. Washington.

Follow Utah baseball on social media (@utahbaseball) for continued news and updates around the team.