Dalton Carroll is one of three returning starting pitchers for the Utes.
Feb. 12, 2014
Continue below for part two of the 2014 Utah baseball season outlook. Today will feature the pitchers and catchers, as well as an overview of the schedule. Click below for part one featuring the infielders and outfielders.
"I felt last year pitching was the strength of our team, and with most of them back and a few additions, I think we're stronger on the mound than we've ever been," Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg said. "Mitch will be our Friday night guy and we expect him to have a great year. He's worked extremely hard to make a big year for himself, so his progress has been very good. We feel like he has a chance to really be an impact pitcher in the Pac-12."
Mitch Watrous finished with a 4-4 record last year with a 2.81 ERA as Utah's Friday starter. He also had a pair of saves after starting the season as a reliever. He finished second on the team with 64 strikeouts. Watrous started and earned the win in both of Utah's shutouts last year, and tied the school record with 12 strikeouts against Saint Mary's.
Dalton Carroll, who went 4-8 with a 3.89 ERA as the Saturday starter in 2013, is the only pitcher in the Pac-12 who did not allow a home run last year (min. one inning pitched per game). Carroll had 41 strikeouts and was second on the team in innings pitched (78 2/3).
"Dalton and Tanner are a year older and stronger, so we feel like they've got a great chance to improve on the good years that they had last year," Kinneberg said.
Both sophomore Bret Helton and senior Zach Adams will be considered for the fourth starter spot. Adams has spent most of the past three seasons injured and has only played in seven games since the start of the 2011 season, but is healthy to start the year. Helton, who made four appearances on the mound last season in addition to playing in the outfield and at designated hitter, had eight strikeouts in four appearances, including pitching an inning of Utah's shutout of USC. Adams could also play a role as a reliever.
"Our fourth starter is up in the air," Kinneberg said. "We'd love for Bret to come in and be able to fill that role because he's a hitter as well, so he would pitch on Tuesday's and be able to hit on the weekend, which would help us. The wild card of our staff is Zach Adams. He is healthy and throwing great, and we will see what role he develops into. He may be a late-inning guy who comes in to help us win, or move into a starting role. That remains to be seen."
A solid group of relievers returns in seniors Nick Green, Luke West and Josh Chapman. Green pitched in a team-high 28 games and also led Utah with a 2.17 ERA. He had two saves with a 0-2 record, and held opponents to a .242 batting average. West pitched 18 games and was often called on in long relief situations. He was second on the team with a 2.75 ERA, going 4-2 with two saves. Chapman went 3-2 with two saves and a 2.84 ERA in 19 appearances. He had 30 strikeouts. Also returning is senior Ben Mordini, who has pitched in 21 games over three years with 11 starts.
Several newcomers also look to make an impact on the rotation. Freshman Dylan Drachler was a first-team all-state selection at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas. Hunter Rodriguez redshirted last year as a freshman and earned a host of accolades coming out of Deseret Vista High School in Phoenix. Junior Nolan Stouder was an honorable mention all-region selection at the College of Southern Idaho.
"Green and West absolutely saved us last year," Kinneberg said. "They are back end bullpen guys who have each had a great fall and are ready to go again. Drachler is left handed and could be a matchup guy or work himself into the fourth starter role by the end of the year."
Senior Konnor Armijo and sophomore A.J. Young, who shared time at the position last year, both return. Armijo hit .261 with nine doubles. He was tied for third in the Pac-12 in pickoffs (4) and ranked fourth in the conference in runners caught stealing (16). Young hit .211 in his debut season and tied for the team lead with three home runs. One of his three home runs came off 2013 first-round draft pick Mark Appel, one of just two players to homer off him last season.
Freshman Max Schuman, who played at Arcadia High School in Arizona, tied for the state lead with 12 home runs in high school and will also see time at designated hitter.
"A.J. and Konnor are both back and will do the majority of the catching depending on who is hot," Kinneberg said. "We will decide who catches 3-4 games during the week. Max is the catcher of the future and we want to get him innings. He adds a left-handed power bat to our lineup and is progressing well after a good fall."
The Utes are scheduled to face four teams ranked in the preseason Baseball America top 25 poll. Defending NCAA champion UCLA and 2013 College World Series participant Oregon State, ranked 12th and second respectively, both visit Spring Mobile Ballpark. Also coming to Salt Lake City is 2012 NCAA champion Arizona, as well as Stanford and Washington. The Utes face 11th-ranked Oregon on the road, and play third-ranked Indiana (also a 2013 CWS participant) at the Pac-12 vs. Big 10 Tournament, which also features Michigan State and Nebraska. Utah will also face Arizona State, California, USC, and Washington State in conference play, as well as non-conference series against Sacramento State, Loyola Marymount and Nevada and in-state rivals BYU and Utah Valley. Utah also goes to the UT-Arlington Invitational, facing Abilene Christian and Missouri State as well as UTA.
Utah is scheduled to play eight games on the Pac-12 Networks this season.