Senior righthander Matthew Neil was a mainstay of the pitching corps in 2011. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
A final season in the Mountain West Conference was inches away from more success for BYU baseball in 2011.
“It is with mixed emotions that we leave the Mountain West," said BYU coach Vance Law. "I have really enjoyed my association with the fine coaches in this conference and I will miss the competition that comes along with that. On the other hand we are excited to go into the West Coast Conference and compete against some very fine baseball programs as well.”
Law completed his 12th season as BYU baseball tallied a 31-27 overall record and an 11-12 mark for a third place league finish.
Games with Pac-10 opponents yielded an upset victory at No. 6 Arizona State behind a great pitching performance by Blake Torgerson and taking two of three games at Washington.
Against future West Coast Conference opponents the Cougars had a two-game sweep at the University of Portland, won two of three games at Pepperdine and split a two-game series with Gonzaga.
“I have no doubt that from top to bottom the West Coast Conference is a very tough conference and I believe that we make it even stronger. No team in that conference can be taken lightly and I am anxious to go in and compete against them.”
While offensive numbers were down in college baseball because of new bat standards, BYU produced one of its lowest earned run averages in school history at 3.98.
“The depth in our pitching staff really showed this year in the number of very close ball games that we had," said Law. "Coach (Bobby) Applegate did a marvelous job of getting our pitchers ready.”
The Cougars were well above the national average hitting 0.72 homers a game, scoring 5.88 runs a game and 0.83 sacrifice bunt a game.
“Offensively, I was disappointed that we didn’t score more runs. Better execution certainly would have put more runs on the board leading to more wins. We will certainly be working on that this coming fall as well as cutting down on the number of strikeouts.”
The Cougars recorded 11 come-from-behind victories and posted a 4-3 record in extra-inning games. There were nine one-run games which went into BYU’s victory column and seven other one-run games that could have resulted in an even more successful season.
Pitchers Matthew Neil (6-4, 2.42) and Taylor Cole (5-5, 2.99) were both selected in the 29th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Florida Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively, have signed contracts and are now in their first seasons of professional baseball.
Neil, a second-team All-MWC performer, was named national pitcher of the week by CollegeBaseballInsider.com and the Mountain West Pitcher of the Week for his 2-0 record, a 0.00 ERA in two appearances in one-run victories over Utah and New Mexico in 11 scoreless innings. That victory against UNM was preserved in the eighth inning when first baseman Austin Hall charged a tough grounder to make a game-saving putout at home plate to catcher Wes Guenther.
There were some notable performances this season by the Cougars. Freshman outfielder Jaycob Brugman led the team in doubles (19), triples (5), RBI (49), total bases (121) and league batting average (.418). Brugman was named to the Freshman All-American First Team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers, Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball magazine, MWC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-MWC.
Brugman (13) along with fellow outfielders Stephen Wells (7) and Ryan Bernal (6) recorded 26 assists to tie Nicholls State as the national leader in that category.
Pitchers Desmond Poulson (6-0, 4.15) and Kolton Mahoney (four saves) were also named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American squad.
Another highlight was Andrew Law recording an unassisted triple play (6-U-U-U) off an infield fly rule against host San Diego State in the MWC Tournament.
Eleven of the Cougars were selected to the Academic All-MWC squad and five were honored as MWC Scholar-Athletes.