2000 Season Summary

First-year Coach Vance Law accomplished much in a 29-29 season and BYU finished third-place in the inaugural season of Mountain West Conference baseball with a 15-15 mark.

Groundbreaking for BYU's new Miller Park, an upset at then No. 2 Alabama, Law's first collegiate victories coming in a two-game sweep at then No. 19 Arizona and a first-place standing after the initial three weeks of MWC play are among the top achievements of the 2000 Cougars.

"I saw some encouraging signs as we return a young nucleus from which to build," said Law, a former major-leaguer. "I had a great experience with the entire ball club."

Individually there were many kudos. MWC Freshman of the Year Matt Carson had a .449 conference-leading batting average in league play. Jeff Stone won a conference-high 10 games to enhance his career record to 21-6. BYU's .327 batting average ranked among the top teams in the nation and Cougars Craig Peterson and Aaron Whitley were ranked at one time in the NCAA leaders in batting average and triples, respectively.

Carson had a team-high 19-game hitting streak and takes a current 10-game hitting streak into next season. Carson was one of 33 collegiate players invited to try out for USA Baseball's national team, in part because of his dazzling throwing arm and impressive team-leading .395 batting average. The freshman also led the Cougars with 77 hits, 18 doubles, 125 total bases and set a school record being hit by 14 pitches. When Carson began his 19-game hitting streak in early March he was batting .245 and when the streak ended in early April he was batting .393.

"Carson had a break-out season and showed people he can be a dominant player," said Law.

Carson was one of three BYU players named to the All-MWC second team. Joining him in those honors were Nick Day and Seth King.

Day, who ended up as a 20th-round draft by the San Diego Padres, passed on a third trip with Stanford to the College World Series and had his most productive collegiate year with BYU. The co-captain's senior leadership welded the outfield as he led the Cougars in runs scored, walks and stolen bases and had the team's second-highest marks in batting average, hits and on-base percentage, going hitless in only 10 of his 50 games.

King, a junior shortstop, had moments of brilliance and was one of six players injured for several weeks during the season. When King left the lineup with a wrist injury the Cougars dipped out of first place, although they did rally for an 11-inning victory at San Diego State.

That April 1 victory at SDSU came after third baseman Kainoa Obrey belted a lead-off home run, one of several monumental hits for the freshman this season. Obrey led the Cougars with nine homers.

Teaming with King in turning most of BYU's double plays was senior Nate Mathis who was stellar at second base.

Pitchers Stone, Micah Mangrum or Nate Fernley took turns recording big moments for the Cougars this season. Stone was the first pitcher to get to conference champion New Mexico en route to a 20-2 victory.

Fernley, who also posted six saves and a conference-best 3.46 ERA, got his first start in the season finale at home with a complete game in a 4-1 defeat over UNM. Before a season-high home crowd of 1,103, Fernley threw 98 pitches in his 23rd appearance as BYU held a groundbreaking ceremony prior to the game for the new Miller Park Softball/Baseball Complex. Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller threw out the first pitch as the principal donor for the new facility which will seat 2,300 for baseball. That victory gave BYU a 503-123-2 (.802) record in 32 seasons at Cougar Field since it opened in 1969.

Mangrum, who signed as a free agent with Kansas City, eliminated UNM from the MWC tournament. Mangrum recorded 13 strikeouts in a loss at San Diego State and 12 strikeouts in a victory at Utah.

At Utah the Cougars helped draw 3,113 fans (third-largest in BYU-Utah history) in a game where Shane Belliston hit a three-run homer to give BYU a 7-2 lead before he was sidelined for the season with a dislocated shoulder. The fifth-best crowd in BYU history came at Alabama when crowds of 6,242, 6,222 and 6,166 helped the Crimson Tide set a new series attendance record in their expanded stadium in BYU's first-ever regular season trip East of the Mississippi River.

The Cougars defeated rival Utah in the opening round of the MWC Tournament at Las Vegas, then lost the first of two games to eventual tourney champion SDSU.

Another individual highlights came when Whitley tied a school record with two triples in BYU's 13-3 victory at Southern Utah. Whitley was slowed by a back injury at New Mexico.

Another injury affecting BYU was to first-baseman Michael Wirrick, who was injured in the first outdoor practice of the season. Wirrick was replaced in the lineup by alternating reserves Peterson and Ty Haguewood.

Another alternating position was at catcher where sophomore Michael Davies shared time with freshman Casey Cloward. Davies hit the three-run homer at Alabama which sparked the Cougars to the 8-3 upset.

This was the first season for longer fences at BYU's home field, resulting in 20 homers, the average for the past 10 home seasons.

The Cougars began the season taking No. 22 Arizona State to the ninth inning deadlocked at 7-7 with slider artist Fernley handcuffing the Sun Devils until surrendering his only hits, back-to-back doubles.

Carson and King were selected as MWC Players of the Week, while Stone, Mangrum and Fernley each had a turn as the MWC Pitcher of the Week.

Three of the NCAA region field were BYU's opponents in the opening weeks of the season, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic and Alabama.

The Cougars lose 11 lettermen, but return 21 for 2001, including pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, Brandon Boothe and Tom Doxey from LDS Church missions.