In addition to returning six starting position players and several key members of the pitching staff, 17th-year head coach Bill Kinneberg also welcomes one of the best recruiting classes in the program's history for the 2020 season. Collegiate Baseball ranked Utah's 2019 signees No. 18 in the nation and third-best in the Pac-12. Four of the rookies that joined the Utes were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft.
Briley Knight continued to improve during his freshman season and had a huge summer playing for the Corvallis Knights. He was named the West Coast League MVP after leading the way in on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.621). He finished second in the league in hitting (.357) and RBI (42) while knocking eight homers.
With Knight holding down center field and hitting at the top of the lineup, sophomore Tyler Thompson and redshirt sophomore Isaac Deveaux have the early edge for the corner outfield spots. Shea Kramer is another player who could see some time in the outfield. Spending the majority of his time at first base in 2019, Kramer can play first, third or either corner outfield spot, making him the ultimate utility player. Kramer hit .279 and had 22 RBI after playing in 44 games with 40 starts in 2019. Junior College transfer Vinny Zavolta and sophomore Tyler Thompson are in the mix for playing time in the outfield as well.
Matt Richardson and Chase Fernlund have the ability to move around, giving Kinneberg several options. Richardson has been a two-year starter at shortstop and will look to hold down that position once again. He hit .250 with 17 RBI after starting 40 games and seeing action in 42 contests in 2019. Freshman Kayler Yates, from St. George, Utah, is pushing Richardson for the starting job.
Richardson could also slide over and play second base, where Fernlund is contending for the starting job. Fernlund played at every position in the infield last season and hit .286 after appearing in 25 games. The senior slugged .391 and finished with nine RBI.
Rykker Tom started at third base in 46 games last season and was one of the better players at the plate for the Utes after he hit .279 with 17 RBI. Braden DeBenedictis, Trey Clarkson and Jayden Kiernan are pushing for playing time at first base.
Part of the pitching staff's improvement comes from the return of Kyle Robeniol and Justin Kelly from injuries. Robeniol was the Friday night starter before suffering a knee injury. The lefthander started seven games in 2019 and had a 4.91 ERA.
As the injuries continued to pile up in 2019, freshmen Dustyn Schramm, David Watson and Zac McCleve were thrust into major roles. Schramm started eight games with 16 appearances, posting a 5.10 ERA. Watson made three starts last season, including the final two series and earned wins in both of those games. McCleve was one of the most consistent pitchers last season. In 30 appearances, he held a 5.72 ERA and five saves.
At catcher, Utah returns starter Zack Moeller for his redshirt senior season. Moeller started 45 games last year and hit .264. His OPS was third on the team at .786. He also slugged .408 with 31 RBI. Jayden Kiernan and Christopher Rowan Jr. will also get some playing time at catcher.
Bill Kinneberg is in his 17th season at the helm of the Utah baseball program and 25th as a head coach at the collegiate level. He has 604 career wins, including 359 during his Utah tenure. Kinneberg was named the 2016 Pac-12 Coach of the Year after leading the Utes to the conference championship.
Kinneberg has taken the Utes to a pair of NCAA Regional appearances, placing second in Fullerton (Calif.) in 2009 and going 1-2 in Oxford (Miss.) in 2016. Eleven Utah players have been taken in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft under Kinneberg, including the school's first-ever first-round selection in C.J. Cron (2011, 17th overall). Four players drafted in 2017 tied a Utah school record. Kinneberg has also established school records for wins in a season at three schools: UTEP (1985), Wyoming (1990) and Utah (1996).
Kinneberg led the USA Baseball Collegiate Team to a silver medal at the 2010 FISU World University Championships in Japan. He also went 25-12 with the 2007 U.S. National Team as its pitching coach, as the team finished with a 1.93 ERA.
Prior to joining the Utah staff, Kinneberg worked for the Chicago White Sox organization as a minor league pitching coach. From 1996-2001, Kinneberg was the associate head coach at Arizona. He served an assistant baseball coach at Arizona State from 1992-94. In his last two seasons, Kinneberg helped lead the Sun Devils to back-to-back appearances in the College World Series.
Kinneberg and his wife Janet have two sons, Joe (18) and David (16).
Gary Henderson, who has 30 years of coaching experience at Florida, Oregon State, Kentucky and Mississippi State, was named Utah's associate head coach in June.
A seasoned veteran and one of the top pitching minds in the country, Henderson was the interim head coach for Mississippi State in 2018 and led the program to the College World Series. He was the Bulldogs' pitching coach from 2016-17.
Henderson worked at Kentucky as an assistant from 2003-08 and head coach from 2009-16. The Wildcats won at least 30 games in five-straight seasons and rose to No. 1 in the nation for the first time in school history in 2012. He was voted the 2012 SEC Coach of the Year. In 2006, the program won its first SEC Championship in baseball under the guidance of Henderson and John Cohen.
Henderson reached 200 wins faster than any head coach in Kentucky history. In his tenure with the Wildcats, 72 players were picked in the MLB Draft or signed as free agents. Eight of Henderson's pitching protégés have reached the Majors since 2012.
Prior to Kentucky, Henderson spent five seasons as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Oregon State. The Beavers notched the school's first College World Series titles in 2006 and 2007. Henderson coached eight Beaver pitchers who were drafted by major league teams, five of whom were selected in the top eight rounds. Two of Henderson's OSU recruiting classes were ranked among the top 30 nationally.
Henderson served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the Florida Gators from 1995-98. In that time, he helped the Gators to the SEC Championship and the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. Collegiate Baseball awarded national rankings to all four of Henderson's recruiting classes at Florida, including a No. 4 spot in 1996. The 1996 season also saw Collegiate Baseball tab Henderson as the National Assistant Coach of the Year.
Henderson earned a bachelor's degree in English from San Diego State and a master's degree in sports psychology from SDSU. He and his wife, Vicki, have two sons, Alex and Ty.
Former four-time all-conference Utah infielder Jay Brossman is in his ninth season on the baseball staff. He is in his fourth year as a full-time assistant coach with the Utes, serving as hitting coach and running the offense.
Under Brossman, Dallas Carroll (2017), DaShawn Keirsey Jr. (2018) and Oliver Dunn (2019) were selected in the MLB Draft. Carroll earned All-America honors from the ABCA in 2017 and was a two-time All-Pac-12 player. Keirsey was a three-time All-Pac-12 and All-Defensive Team selection (2016-18). Dunn was a Collegiate Baseball All-American and All-Pac-12 selection (2019). All three were among the top hitters in the league during their time at Utah.
Utah had one of its best offensive seasons in 2017. Utah's .287 batting average in 2017 was its highest since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2012. The Utes also had Pac-12 era highs in slugging percentage (.399), on-base percentage (.375), RBI (280), hits (514) and runs scored (311). Utah ranked fourth in the league in batting average, third in on-base percentage and fourth in runs scored and RBI that season.
Brossman worked two seasons (2015-16) as the volunteer assistant coach for the Utes. He also served two years as the director of operations and one year as a student assistant coach. During his Ute playing career from 2004-07, he hit .359 and set school records for hits, doubles and total bases.
Brossman was selected in the 36th round of the 2007 MLB Draft and spent five years in the Los Angeles Angels minor league system. He was a Pioneer League All-Star in 2007. Jay and his wife Jenny have two sons, Colten and Caleb.
Parker Guinn is in his third season as a volunteer assistant coach at Utah. Guinn joined the Utes from Washington, where he was a student manager in 2017.
Guinn played three seasons at catcher for Washington (2012-14) before transferring to SIUE (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) for his senior season in 2015.
Guinn was the volunteer assistant coach at SIUE in 2016. He served as the head coach for the U16 team of the Narrows Baseball Club from 2016-17.
Guinn is originally from Las Vegas, Nev., and attended high school in Gig Harbor, Wash. He earned a degree in mass communications with a minor in business administration from SIUE in 2015.
The Utes were crowned the 2016 Pac-12 Conference champions, winning the title in one of the nation's top-rated baseball leagues that boasts a record 28 NCAA championships. Utah then made it back-to-back Pac-12 upper division finishes after tying for fifth in 2017.
Utah has advanced to NCAA Regionals twice in recent years. The Utes made their first NCAA appearance since 1960 in 2009 after winning the MWC Tournament. The Utes went 2-2 to finish as the runner-up in the Fullerton Regional. Utah went 1-2 in the Oxford Regional in 2016, getting a 10-inning win over No. 7-ranked Ole Miss in the tournament opener.
In his first stint as Utah's head coach, Bill Kinneberg led Utah a then school-record 30 wins in 1996. The team he assembled before leaving to become the associate head coach at Arizona won 36 games and captured the WAC North Division title in 1997. In Utah's final year in the Mountain West Conference, Kinneberg led Utah to 29 wins and a runner-up finish in the league.