Utah Baseball Opens Season With 8-5 Win at Loyola Marymount
LOS ANGELES – Left fielder Kai Roberts clubbed his first career grand slam to highlight a five-run second inning for Utah, as the Utes picked up an 8-5 win in their season opener at Loyola Marymount on Friday night at Page Stadium. The win marked the first at the helm for Utah head coach Gary Henderson, who previously served two seasons as associate head coach before being named skipper in June 2021.
— Utah Baseball (@utahbaseball) February 19, 2022
Shortstop Matt Richardson went 2-for-4 out of the seven-hole, and both center fielder Carter Booth (2) and Jayden Kiernan added RBI in the win.
Making his first start as a Ute, right-hander Matthew Sox went 4.2 innings and received a no-decision. He allowed four runs on seven hits, logging five strikeouts and walking one batter. Ben Kibbe (1-0) came on in relief of Sox, fanning two in his 1.2 innings of work allowing one run. Zac McCleve then worked the final 2.2 innings for the save.
After leaving men in scoring position in the first inning, Utah spotted LMU a run in the bottom half, but the Utes went off for five runs in their next turn at-bat. Three straight walks to TJ Clarkson, Matt Richardson and Jackson Clemett began the second inning, then after an infield fly and fielder's choice Roberts stepped into the batter's box. He crushed a 2-1 pitch deep before it rang off the right field light tower and put the Utes ahead 4-1.
The Utes converted a fourth walk of the inning into another run, as Chase Anderson battled through eight pitches for a free pass, moved to third on a base hit and scored on a two-out error.
In the third, Utah swelled its lead to 7-1 when Booth smacked a two-run triple down the right field line, plating Clemett and Jonny Barditch.
LMU clawed back with three runs in its half of the fifth, plus an unearned tally in the sixth inning to cut the Utah lead to 7-5.
Utah got one back in the top of the eighth. Anderson led off with a first-pitch double, moved up 90 feet on a perfectly-placed sac bunt by Alex Baeza, then came home on a sac fly off the bat of Kiernan.
McCleve came on with one out and a runner on first in the seventh inning, inducing a foul out and a grounder to get out of the frame. He worked a 1-2-3 eighth, then allowed just a hit batsman in the ninth before bouncing back with a strikeout, fly ball and a foul-tipped strike three to end the ballgame--the first season-opening win for Utah since 2015.
Utah continues its series with the Lions on Saturday, Feb. 19 in a game beginning at 7 p.m. MT from Page Stadium.
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