Pitching the downfall in UW's loss to Utah

In baseball, they say pitching and defense wins championships. Today, the Washington Huskies had the defense but left much to be desired when it came to its pitching, ultimately losing to the Utah Utes 17-8 on a glorious sunny afternoon next to Lake Washington at Husky Ballpark.

On a day when March 2nd felt more like May 2nd, Utah knocked around Husky pitchers for 21 hits and drew five walks in the 3:13 minute game.

Washington starter, right-hander Clay Johnson, lasted only 1 1/3 innings before giving away to relief. Johnson allowed three singles in the first inning and five more in the second before Washington Head Coach Ken Knutson had seen enough and went to the mound with the hook.

Knutson brought in reliever Brian Carter, a sophomore left-hander from Woodinville High School, to try to stop Utah's momentum in the second inning. Instead, Carter, who entered the game with three walks in four innings pitched this season, walked all three batters he faced and allowed two more runs to score - both credited to Johnson.

Freshman righty Will Fenton then took to the mound, still with only one out in the inning, and hit third baseman Mike Westfall to plate another Ute baserunner before getting catcher Donald Hawes to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. By the time the damage had ended, Utah scored six runs and had broken out to an 8-3 lead.

Johnson (0-1) was credited for seven earned runs in his short time on the mound, giving him 17 earned runs in just 10 1/3 innings pitched this season.

Utah scored two more in the third inning thanks to a two-out bomb hit off the bat of Nate Weese. The high-rising homerun to right field scored second baseman Adam Castleton in the process, who had doubled two batters earlier.

Weese finished the day 5-6 from the plate with three RBI and four runs scored. Castelton went 4-5 with three RBI and three runs scored.

Meanwhile, Utah starter Cheyenne Rushton got into a rhythm on the mound that prevented Washington from ever having a chance to get back into the game. The Huskies found it difficult to get even a baserunner, let alone a run across.

Late in the game, Utah continued to tack on runs. A four-run seventh made it 14-3.

After skating along smoothly from the second through sixth inning, Rushton finally got into a jam two outs into the seventh and was removed after giving up his fourth earned run of the game. Jared Snyder came in to get the last out of inning.

Washington youngsters, sophomore Steve Ramsey and Kyle Larsen, hit back-to-back homeruns in the eighth off of Snyder, but each of the solo shots came after the game was already well in hand.

Rushton improved to 2-0 with the victory.

Utah scored a run in the eighth and a two more in the the ninth to get to 17 runs, and Washington scored two in the ninth to get to eight runs by the time the game ended.

Early in the game, Utah got on the board with two runs in the first, becoming the first Husky opponent to score in the first inning this season. Washington nearly got out of the inning unscathed, but with runners on second and third and two outs, Matt Ciaramella came to the plate and hit a hard grounder to second baseman Michael Done. The strong-armed Done fielded the ball going toward second base and rifled the ball toward first but Ciaramella beat it out, allowing Donnie Saba and Nate Weese to come around and score.

Washington regained the lead quickly, though. In the bottom of the first, leadoff hitter Taylor Johnson walked and Tila Reynolds got aboard on a bunt single to set up Done, one of the team's best hitters. Done only had to see one pitch from Utes starter Cheyenne Rushton, and that he crushed over the right field wall for a three-run homerun to put the Diamond Dawgs ahead 3-2.

It would be the only time the Huskies would hold a scoring advantage all game long.

Done and Reynolds had three hits apiece for the Huskies.

Player of the Game: Utah first baseman Nate Weese was unstoppable at the plate, going 5-6 with three RBI.

Play of the Game: Nate Weese's two-out, two-run moonshot of a homerun in the third inning made it a 10-3 ballgame. After Weese hit the ball, it sailed high into the sky and kept carrying, eventually clearing the right field wall well beyond the reach of leaping Husky right fielder Tyler Davidson.

Game Notes:
All in the Name: Washington Head Coach Ken Knutson had four players with the last name "Johnson" in the Huskies' starting lineup. Ben Johnson started at catcher, Bryan Johnson at first base, Taylor Johnson in center field, and on the mound Clay Johnson got his third start of the season.

Up Next: The Huskies take to the field tomorrow against Utah at 1 p.m. to conclude the three-game series.

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