Corey Shimada and the Ute baseball team are prepping for the 2008 season.
Sept. 13, 2007
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Major League Baseball season has entered the home stretch. But, at the University of Utah, its baseball team is just getting started.
Head coach Bill Kinneberg and his Utah baseball team are in the middle of fall practices, preparing for the 2008 campaign. The first two-and-a-half weeks had the team breaking out into individual practices with team practices having started Wednesday.
"I think we're doing well right now," said Kinneberg. "What we've been doing is setting a fundamental base with the offense, defense and pitching portions of the game. But, after all of the individual workouts, I think the guys are ready to get together and practice as a team.
"Everyone has worked real hard on the field and in the weight room, and I think we're off to good start."
With a rigorous 51-game schedule ahead of it this spring, the team's charge is simple. It needs to have a solid foundation built.
"Our basic philosophy is that, by the end of the fall, we want to be ready to play our first ball game," Kinneberg said. "We've been working on getting our offense, our team defense and individual defense ready for the year, and we want to be in a great shape when this is over. We want to finish the fall feeling like we're ready to play our top opponent for the season."
Baseball is also enacting new rules this season pertaining to practice and playing dates. From now on, NCAA baseball teams will abide by a uniform start date (which will be Feb. 22 in 2008), and now will have 45 days to conduct 33 fall practices.
"With the new rule changes, it gave us an extra two weeks to work in fall," Kinneberg points out. "As a coaching staff, that gives us time to teach a lot more than in the past. We didn't have the time to implement a lot things in the past. Now, we can take the time to hone the fundamentals."
The Utes begin the season at San Jose State on Feb. 22. That launches a season-opening 17-game road swing. It culminates with a non-conference tournament at Fresno State.
After Fresno State, the Utes return home to host their first games of the year, and it happens to be a conference series. It all begins with San Diego State at Franklin Covey Field on March 20-22. Also coming to town this year are Air Force (March 28-30), Utah Valley (April 2, 4, 15), Southern Utah (April 22, May 6, May 13), UNLV (April 25-27), and Brigham Young (May 15-17).
"In our conference, TCU will be the team to beat," Kinneberg said. "We're making strides to get better in the conference. We want to be one of the teams that challenges for the conference championship."
Last year, the Utes went into the final weekend of regular season play with a chance to secure the conference's second seed. However, the team lost the last three games of the season and settled for the No. 3 seed. Utah then went two-and-out at the conference tournament.
"We got a little smell of what it's like to be near the top of the conference last season," reflects Kinneberg. "We went into the last weekend with a shot at the No. 2 seed. But, we were disappointed with the way it ended up. The staff and the team realize that we were close, but we were certainly disappointed with the way it ended against Brigham Young and at the Mountain West Conference Championship."
Before the wins and losses start to count, the Utes will play a few games this fall. Utah will play at Salt Lake Community College on Oct. 9 and host the Bruins on Oct. 10. First pitch is set for 5 and 2 p.m., respectively. On Oct. 22, the Utes begin their "Fall World Series," an intra-squad competition that goes until Oct. 26.