Run production should be very good in 2010 as BYU’s defense and pitching develops for its baseball team, which returns 20 lettermen and lost 16.
“Offensively, this may be one of the best clubs we’ve had,” said BYU coach Vance Law, who enters his 11th year of Mountain West Conference competition. “We are well balanced from top to bottom with a good mix of power and speed.”
Law rallied his charges to a 30-24 record and a third place finish in the Mountain West Conference last season behind TCU and San Diego State.
“We will pressure defenses with an aggressive style of baseball particularly on the bases and continue to work on our own defense which was clearly sub par last year,” said Law.
Offensively, the Cougars will look for Alex Wolfe to rebound from a knee injury that limited him to 11 games last year.
“Alex has the potential to carry our team and he is getting close to being 100%,” said Law. Along with Wolfe, Sean McNaughton will provide a lot of run production.
“Sean has had a great fall and has been working harder than ever in the weight room. I have no doubt he will have a great year and be the kind of hitter we all know he can be.”
JC transfer Ryan Bernal(SLCC), Bryce Ayoso, Brandon Relf, and Jonathan Cluff are also solid players who will be counted on heavily.
“I am so excited about the way Jon has played this fall. Ryan, Bryce, and Brandon are all capable of carrying our team too.”
Setting the table will be Andrew Law and Stephen Wells, an All-MWC Tourney honoree as a freshman, who recently returned from missionary service in Puerto Rico. Law stole 18 of 20 bases last season and will be looking to improve on that, as well as increase his offensive production.
“Andrew brings another dimension to the game with his speed and is a threat for an extra base at any time.
“We have a solid group of returning position players with very capable reserves.”
Dane Nielsen has had an impressive fall and no doubt figures into the mix as well as Austin Hall and newcomers Alex Hancock (CSI), and Coltin White (MCC). Brock Luker has improved a great deal and we look returning missionaries, Wes Guenther and Chase Frampton to swing it well also.
Freshmen walkons Andy Isom and Kevin Noall round out the position players for this year’s team.
“Those two young outfielders have a chance to be really good players by the time they leave here,” said Law.
Behind the plate are veteran catchers Bryce Ayoso and Guenther. Another catcher returned missionary, Chase Frampton, will likely see more playing time as a designated hitter.
On the mound, pitcher Justin Shutt will have to move to a starting role, following a strong summer and fall.
“Justin has earned the opportunity to lead our staff this year following his improvement this past year.”
There are no returning starting pitchers due to season ending elbow injuries to Blake Torgerson and Jake Wortham. Others who will likely compete for starting pitcher roles are freshman Chunner Nyberg, a 49th-round draft pick last summer by the Los Angeles Angels, and junior relief pitcher Shawn Hardesty. Senior Kevin Sloan was also impressive this fall.
”Kevin has also done well this fall and comes in and challenges hitters and just throws strikes,” adds Law.
Three senior pitchers were lost to Tommy John surgery including Torgerson, Wortham, and Jared Miller.
“With the loss of those three seniors, we will be young on the mound, but all are talented competitors.”
Freshmen Mark Anderson, Chris Howard will join Brandon Michon as lefties while freshmen Chris Capper, DJ Stanley, Devin Brewer join JC transfer Nick Birch, David McKnight, Matthew Neil, Sloan, and David Parry a returned missionary, on the right side.
The Cougars boast four two-way players, which include Coltin White RHP/OF, Chris Capper P/3B, Anderson LHP/OF and Sloan 3B/P, though most will be relied on for pitching duties this year.
Cluff, (20th, Atlanta Braves 2006), McNaughton (38th, Chicago Cubs 2008) and Wolfe (47th, Boston Red Sox 2005) join Nyberg as Cougars who were selected in previous pro drafts. Last year’s draft took underclassmen Steve Parker (third base) and Jeremy Toole (pitcher) from the Cougar roster.
Four other underclassmen are missing from last year’s Cougar roster as they are fulfilling volunteer two-year mission assignments: Adam Law (2B-SS, Zimbabwe), Adam Miller (RHP, Mexico), Marc Oslund (RHP, North Carolina) and Brock Whitney (3B, Mexico). Returning to this year’s squad from missions are Frampton (Long Beach, Calif.), Wes Guenther (Chile), Hall (Chile), Parry (Argentina) and Wells (Puerto Rico).
Captains, as voted on by the team, are Sloan, Law, Cluff, Brandon Relf, and Sean McNaughton.
“It is a fine group of young men who are outstanding ambassadors of good and will lead this team very well. It could’ve been any number of guys but these are who the team chose,” said Coach Law.
On the MWC schedule, BYU has defending league champion TCU and UNLV in home and away games, but only three-game series at New Mexico and the Air Force Academy and hosting San Diego State and rival Utah in Provo. The Cougars also host Washington, Washington State and Kansas State.