Boys of summer hitting the field

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Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 4:58pm

 A new chapter was started in last year’s conference tournament when the Eastern baseball program knocked out a team that wasn’t Colorado Northwestern. After a wild victory over the Coyotes of College of Southern Nevada, USU Eastern tied a school baseball record by going  four games deep in a conference tournament.

With that success they rode into the summer with high expectations. The Eastern baseball program returns the majority of their pitching staff. The returning pitching staff accounted for 81 percent of last years wins. Even with losing the conference player of the year in Craig Brinkerhoff, the coaching staff addressed those recruiting needs in the off-season. Coach Scott Madsen stated, “ we didn’t lose a step in this off-season, we just re-loaded.”

The team’s fall season began with the Sophomore all-star showcase, in which five Eastern players were selected to play in front of professional and university scouts. Eastern baseball was represented in the showcase by Colter Moore, Tory Ullibarri, Kody Christoffersen, Kort Christoffersen and Nuho Kraja. All players played well, even with the pressure of playing in front of scouts. Kort Christoffersen added, “ it was exciting and a little nerve-racking to play in that setting, but all players from our team played well.”

This past weekend, Eastern traveled to battle Salt Lake Community College, in a doubleheader, and a Chicago Cubs scout team. In the first game, Eastern jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Eastern starting pitcher, Tory Ullibarri, received offensive help from Nuho Kraja and Chance Abrath who both had two hits in the game. Although Eastern pounded out nine hits and showed patience at the plate (six walks), it wasn’t enough as Eastern fell 9-6 to the Bruins.

The second game was played in an absolute downpour; both teams not only battled each other but also the wetness of the playing surface, and cold temperatures. Salt Lake handled the sweather better as the Golden Eagle defense committed numerous errors and lost 10-1.

In the final game of the weekend Eastern faced a Chicago Cubs scout team, coached by Gary Van Tol, who also coaches for Gonzaga, and in the Chicago Cubs minor league system. The Golden Eagles were without Head Coach Scott Madsen who had to attend to family matters. The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead, but the offense answered with a four run second inning.  The Golden Eagles received strong pitching performances from Andrew Mahalik and Mason Moore.  Both kept the Cubs off-balance, while showing command of all their pitches. The Golden Eagles tacked on a few more runs, and ended up winning 8-2. The pitching was benefited from the offense of Freshmen Chance Abrath, and Tait Slesk who both had three hits. In response to the game Assistant Coach KC Smurthwaite commented, “ We kept up our intensity the whole game, and that made a huge difference in how we played.”

Fans can see the USU Eastern baseball team play this weekend in Price, when they host Utah State University. The Aggies will be here for a doubleheader; games start at noon Saturday, Sept. 24 and admission is free.

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