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Utah baseball: DaShawn Keirsey Jr.'s speed gives Utes 'wow' factor

Published April 18, 2017 3:08 pm

Utah baseball • Onetime prep football star says he was correct in sticking with baseball.
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DaShawn Keirsey Jr. can get from home plate to first base in under 4 seconds.

He can get around the bases if you give him 14 seconds.

Don't believe it? Time it. In the pivotal series against Washington last season in which Utah fought to earn the Pac-12 crown, Kiersey launched a line drive over the center fielder and took off. From the ping of the bat to his tag-beating slide for an inside-the-park home run, only 14 seconds pass in the highlight clip — less time than it takes to tie a pair of shoes.

It's this blazing speed that makes the sophomore one of the most gifted position players the Utes have enjoyed in years, and why the returning freshman All-American is a feared playmaker both in the field and at the plate.

"His No. 1 tool is his speed. He's as fast a guy as there is on a baseball field," Utes coach Bill Kinneberg said. "He's a really good defensive center fielder, and then the other tools are there. He's got a chance to hit, he's got a little power, he throws very well. He grades out from a professional standpoint very, very well."

Keirsey is one of Utah's most important players. His .336 batting average and 21 RBIs trail only senior Dallas Carroll for the team lead and put him among the top 15 hitters in the Pac-12. His speed has allowed him to tie for the league lead with four triples.

But there's an element of Keirsey's game that is hard to capture in a stat sheet. For instance when he made a blind, over-the-shoulder catch near the center-field wall almost at its deepest point — 420 feet — in the same series last season.

"When the ball was hit, in the back of my mind, I was like, 'DaShawn has that ball,'" fellow outfielder Josh Rose said. "He has the ability to make that play that gets the momentum on our side and changes the game for us."

Keirsey hails from San Diego, where he was a two-sport star at football powerhouse Helix High. He played on teams with Utah State senior cornerback Jalen Davis, whom he noted once beat him in a footrace, "but I would love to race him now."

He had early interest in playing wide receiver at San Jose State and Cal Poly. But while he thought his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame might translate to football, pro baseball always would be an option at his size and speed.

Baseball was the first sport Keirsey loved as a kid, and he decided to make it his only sport as a high school senior.

"I miss football a lot," he said. "But I know I made the right decision."

Coming off a standout rookie year, expectations were soaring for Keirsey entering this season — and maybe his expectations were the highest. But while he started out hot, he hit a slight rut late in nonconference play and early in Pac-12 play as the team itself slid, losing 10 of 11 games.

His strikeouts were up, his hits and walks were down. Keirsey wasn't having more problems than anyone else on the team — far from it — but he knew he could be better. He concentrated on shortening his swing and becoming more efficient at the plate. His average had risen above .300 by the end of March and hasn't dipped below .320 this month.

"At the beginning of the year, I definitely was putting pressure on myself," he said. "Then I started worrying less about what people were thinking and it just got a little easier."

The Utes (14-17, 5-10) still are languishing in the bottom tier of the Pac-12 this week, even after a needed series win against Cal. It doesn't get any easier this week. After facing BYU at home Tuesday, Utah takes on a tough Arizona squad in Tucson. The Utes are only 5-11 on the road so far this year.

But it helps, Rose said, that he knows the man standing beside him in outfield always will give Utah a chance to win — one jaw-dropping play at a time.

"Some of the catches and some of the hits he's had in the past, it's just like, 'Wow,'" Rose said. "I hope someday I'll say, 'Hey kids, I played with that guy, and he's in the big leagues right now.'"


Twitter: @kylegoon —

DaShawn Keirsey Jr.

• First team all-county in both baseball and football at Helix High School in San Diego.

• Batted .293 as a freshman, led Pac-12 with 28 runs in conference games.

• Named a Louisville Slugger freshman All-American and first team all-Pac-12 in 2016.

• Batting .336, with 21 RBIs, six doubles, four triples and three home runs so far this season.

BYU at Utah

P Smith's Ballpark When • 6 p.m. Tuesday

TV • Pac-12 Networks






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