The Pilots dropped their first season series against the highly touted No. 5 Mississippi State this past weekend, losing 16-1, 2-1, 7-1 and 6-0. While those numbers are not what the team was looking for to start out their season, the team takes comfort in the experience of going against one of the best college baseball programs in the country.
“I think this series showed much more about how good of an opponent they were, rather than how poorly we played,” junior right-handed pitcher Jeremy Burright said. “There are a lot of things we didn’t do well, but we looked much stronger in two of the games.”
The Pilots look forward to getting back to the Northwest, even if it means colder temperatures than in the warm, sunny Mississippi.
“I think our team can use this experience to show what we really need to work on,” Head Coach Chris Sperry said. “I think we can get better looks at the plate when hitting and not leaving runners on base and we made a couple errors that cost us heavily. I think getting back to our elements and getting to play where we are comfortable will help tremendously.”
The Pilots first touch down to face Seattle University on Feb. 19 beginning at 4 p.m. before heading home for a three game series against Utah Valley.
While being a reletively unknown college name compared to Mississippi State, Utah Valley has shown that they can compete because of a strong-hitting senior class.
The Utah Valley Wolverines are led by senior outfielders Sean Moysh, who leads his team in batting average with .467 and seven hits through four games played, Jordy Nelson with a .333 batting average and five hits as well as senior short-stop Kai Hatch with a .294 batting average, five hits and a team-high four RBI’s.
Utah Valley currently sits at 1-3 overall compared to UP’s 0-4 start, but did show they have the talent to compete in the WCC as they knocked off UP rival Gonzaga 6-2 in the Palm Springs Tournament this weekend. They would later lose to Gonzaga in a rematch 6-4, UC Riverside 8-7 and No. 6 Oregon State 5-2. Despite the losing outcomes, the Wolverines show that they can compete with the best offensively and can even knock off better teams if their pitching is on par.
This will be how UP will need to seperate themselves from not only Utah Valley, but later in the WCC as well. Preseason All-WCC named left-handed sophomore Travis Radke showed why he deserved his latest accolade against Mississippi State hitters widely seen as future MLB prospects. Radke pitched six innings while striking out nine Mississippi State hitters, firmly keeping UP in the game against the vastly more talented Mississippi State team in his lone start.
Despite the poor start to begin the season, UP’s first real test and chance for fans to see the team themselves will come Feb. 22, 23 and 24 when Utah Valley comes to The Bluff. The games begin at 3 p.m., 2 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively.