Utes Back in Action for the Sweets
Two University of Utah players set to join the Sweets this summer
Walla Walla, Wash. - After a brief hiatus, there will once again be Utes donning Walla Walla uniforms in the 2018 season. The freshman pair of Justin Kelly (RHP) and Matt Richardson (SS) will be the first University of Utah players to join the Sweets since 2013, when future draft pick Bret Helton was an All-Star pitcher for the Sweets' division-winning club.
"The way I looked at it was that Walla Walla looked like a great place," Kelly said. "I've actually driven through the city a few times and it seemed like an awesome town."
"I just feel it's a great opportunity to continue to play over the summer, especially being able to compete with other talented players," Richardson said. "And it's a town I've never been to, so it's just a great opportunity."
Kelly grew up in West Jordan, Utah and went to Copper Hills High School where he had an outstanding high school career being named All-Region three consecutive seasons. He finished his senior year with a 1.67 ERA and 42 strikeouts over 37 2/3 innings and was named to the Utah 5A All-Star Team, as well as honorable mention All-State.
Kelly was initially committed to play baseball at the junior college level before being recruited by and ultimately committing to the University of Utah. He grew up a fan of the Utes, but he also said he chose Utah because it offered him the opportunity to play at the Division I level.
"The goal, honestly, is to play at the highest level that you can," Kelly said. "So the way I looked at it was why put off playing two years at a JUCO, when I could play at the highest level that I possibly can right away."
While in high school, Kelly played shortstop along with pitching, but he was recruited to the Utes as a pitcher. He said that he's already having a great time with the Utah's baseball program and that he loves being able to branch out and meet as many new people as he can in Salt Lake City.
"It's been awesome being able to go to that big of a school and making connections all over the place," Kelly said. "The baseball has been great and I'm looking forward to the long season ahead because it's going to be awesome."
Richardson is a native of La Mesa, California where he went to Helix Charter High School and was a four-year starter at shortstop for the varsity baseball team. He was named All-League three times including 1 st Team his junior and senior seasons and was also tabbed All-East County twice. He finished his senior season with a .374 batting average, three homeruns, 20 RBI, and a .995 OPS.
Richardson said he chose to attend the University of Utah because he will have the opportunity to come in and start right away at shortstop for the Utes and because he'll be playing with and against some of the best players in the country while competing in the Pac-12. He will also have the chance to reunite with his former high school teammate, Dashawn Keirsey Jr., who Richardson also said played a big factor in him choosing to play in Salt Lake City.
"It has been nothing but positive and great experiences," Richardson said of his early time spent at Utah. "It was definitely hard at first coming into a new city, new state, and not being familiar with Salt Lake City, but the guys made it an easier transition and the coaches, too, and now everything's flowing really well."
Richardson said that his parents are a huge part of his life and that they are what motivates him to be great. His
father, Marty, was his baseball coach growing up and his mother, Lisa, has always been his biggest supporter.
"My dad was really the first person that taught me how to play the game that I love," Richardson said, "and my mom, she's my number one fan. There's nobody in my life that supports me more than my mom. I've always been really close with my parents because they know what's best for me and they know what I have to do [to play baseball at the next level]."
The talented freshmen from the Utes both said they look forward to meeting their new Sweets teammates and improving their game by playing against the high caliber competition in the WCL.
"The biggest thing for me to do this summer is just be able to grow more as a person and branch out and meet even more people," Kelly said. "I haven't spent this amount of time being out of state and being away from everybody, so that's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to - being able to get out and meet new people."
"I am going to be playing in front of some really cool fans," Richardson said. "I looked into Walla Walla and the fan base behind the team and it looks awesome."
Sweets head coach Frank Mutz said that both players are extremely versatile and will be key players for the team this season.
"Having a durable pitcher like Justin gives us an arm we can fit in either the rotation or the back end of the bullpen," Mutz said. "He has the ability to throw in any situation which will be really valuable for our pitching staff. Matt can play both middle infield positions and is very capable offensively. We focus on recruiting speed, and he will fit right in with our aggressive style of baserunning."
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