Baseball: Utes meet conference rivals UCLA with season winding down

The Utah baseball team (14-22, 9-6) continues its home stretch as it takes on UCLA (19-19, 9-9) at Smith’s Ballpark looking for its second consecutive win.

With the team is looking to build momentum from their win over Oregon State last Sunday, the Utes are looking forward toward matching up with the Bruins, who sophomore Andre Jackson says are always tough opponents.

“We know what’s at stake for the rest of the Pac-12 conference,” Jackson said. “We don’t try to change too much, and we stay at what’s best for our team. It’s UCLA, so it’s always a tough matchup going against them.”

UCLA, who is coming off its recent loss to in-state rival Cal State Fullerton, are looking to get back on track in the Pac-12 and build on its .500 record as the season is beginning to head into the final stretch.

The Utes, on the other hand, are looking to build off the positives that were found in the last game of the series against the Beavers, who took the overall series 2-1 at Utah’s turf.

Jackson felt that even though OSU was a tough opponent, the Utes could’ve done better.

“It was a tough team,” Jackson said. “I thought we could’ve won, but they brought the sticks out, and we didn’t play to the best of our abilities. We can take the momentum from Sunday into this weekend.”

Head coach Bill Kinneberg wasn’t hesitant to mention how good of a club the Beavers were, but he believes his team has what it takes to beat its next Pac-12 opponent.

“Oregon State is a good ball club,” Kinneberg said. “It was really great to win the last game. We had opportunities in the other games to win those as well, and that was disappointing. I didn’t think we pitched as well as we have been and took advantage of other opportunities, but we have a big chance this weekend.”

Kinneberg also isn’t too concerned about the implications of their last series loss and is focusing his attention on the Bruins and getting the essential wins they need in order to improve their record.

“Who knows,” Kinneberg said. “In this league, it turns on a dime. You’ve got to be ready to play every inning and every pitch. You hope that it gives confidence and hope it continues to go well, but we have to earn it.”

With the Utes looking to catch up after a semi-slow start to the season, they feel that a win against the Bruins will be enough to help regain their confidence and cruise through the rest of the season to take back some much-needed wins.

UCLA, who is always considered a tough team in baseball, will be just the sort of win the Utes need in order to kickstart their 2016 campaign once again, because this is one of the last opportunities Utah has to make that happen.

The first game of the three-game home series will begin on Friday at noon MST; followed by Saturday’s game at the same time, and ends Sunday night at 7 p.m. MST.

c.marquez@dailyutahchronicle.com

@chad_marquez