by Ralph R. Zobell, BYU Athletic Communications
Jeremy Toole is among the four players who signed with the Pro ranks from the 2009 squad. Trevor Brown, Jr./Rich Clarkson & Associates
When BYU coach Vance Law predicted BYU would be in the thick of the conference title race, it may have caught a few off guard.
The Cougars, 30-24 and 14-8 for third place in the Mountain West Conference, surprised many based upon pre-season projections which had them finishing fourth after a 22-36 mark in 2008. It was the seventh time in his 10 years at the helm that Coach Law reached the 30-win mark.
“Overall, I was pleased with the progress this team made," said Coach Law. "We played a very challenging schedule and played very well against some respected baseball programs. I believe that it is important to continue to play a great schedule and put our program in a position to play in the post season by continuing to improve our RPI.”
From what may have been the most difficult schedule in school history, BYU traveled more miles (over 26,304) than most teams in the NCAA, enough to go around the world .
BYU played 13 games against teams ranked in the top 20 at the time, and four of those were among the 15 one-run games, from which BYU fashioned a 10-5 record. The Cougars recorded four walk-off victories, but fell victim to walk-offs at Wichita State, TCU and Kansas State.
Nine of BYU’s opponents made it to the NCAA post-season: TCU, San Diego State, Utah, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oregon State, Washington State and Wichita State. No wonder the Cougars’ RPI ranked in the upper echelon of the NCAA.
The Cougars had a 2-2 record in the MWC Tourney, including ousting the NCAA’s top hitting team, New Mexico, before falling victim on the same day to host TCU, who fell one game short of Omaha and the College World Series. The 98 stolen bases was the third-highest mark in Coach Law's 10 years at the helm.
No. 1 draft selection, Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals) didn’t get the decision against BYU as the Cougars beat the Aztecs 4-2 at San Diego State, the only time in his 15 starts he didn’t register a decision.
Third baseman Steve Parker was drafted in the fifth round by the Oakland A’s (153rd pick). Parker and designated hitter Kent Walton (drafted in the 23rd round by the Oakland A's)earned first team All-Mountain West Conference honors. Walton led the Cougars with four of the team’s 28 game-winning RBI and ended the season with a team-best batting average of .377, although he was above .400 for much of the season.
Outfielder Stetson Banks (drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 22nd round) had a team-best 17-game hitting streak, and ended the season on a four-game streak. He was 23 of 29 in stolen bases. Relief pitcher Jordan Muir and pitcher Blake Torgerson were selected to the All-MWC second team following outstanding seasons.
“It is nice to see that some of our players are getting the opportunity to play professional baseball and reflects well on our program and shows that we are getting and helping to develop the talent that these young men have," said Law. "Hopefully that trend will continue.”
Pitcher Marc Oslund, 7-1, 2.49, was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, a second team freshman All-American by Ping! and was voted to the MWC all-tourney team. BYU’s three starting freshman pitchers started the season with a combined 6-0 record before registering a loss.
Parker and Torgerson were also selected during the season as player and pitcher of the week, respectively, for performances against Utah and a two-hitter versus the Air Force Academy.
Flamethrower Jeremy Toole was also drafted in the 10th round by the San Francisco Giants. Toole recorded a team-best 10 strikeouts in seven innings of a 1-0 victory, the first of a three-game sweep at Western Carolina.
Eleven of BYU’s 15 saves, both school records, were recorded by Muir, who was among the NCAA’s top 25 in that category. Among the other highlights was a 5-4-3 triple play against New Mexico.
Walk-on senior Michael Bowen may have been the most pleasant surprise of the team, starting in right field, and leading the team with 53 RBI and was hit by a dozen pitches.
The crowd of 3,081 against Utah this season was the fourth-largest in school history and the second-largest at Miller Park. Speaking of Utah, the Cougars won the baseball portion of the Deseret Dual Trophy for the second year in a row over the Utes. The Cougars were 15-4 at Larry H. Miller field in a year they wore the initials LHM in honor of the donor who passed away during the season.
There were eight seniors on the 2009 squad. A medical redshirt is hopeful for catcher/first baseman Alex Wolfe, who injured his knee 11 games into the season.
Eleven of the 2009 Cougars made the Academic All-MWC team, headed by pitchers Shawn Hardesty and Kevin Sloan who were both MWC Scholar-Athletes, too.
Four of this year’s team will not return because they are leaving to serve two-year missions: Oslund (North Carolina), Adam Law (Zimbabwe), Adam Miller (Mexico) and Brock Whitney (Mexico).