Dakota Hernandez was the starting catcher before breaking his thumb, then returned to that role after missing games to finish his sophomore season. (Photo by BYU Photo/Bella Torgerson)
Most of the goals were accomplished for new head coach Mike Littlewood as his staff laid the foundation for BYU baseball in his inaugural 2013 season.
Littlewood and his staff anticipated the Cougars would achieve those goals that led to a 32-21 overall record and a second-place West Coast Conference tie with a 15-9 league mark, as BYU was one of four teams in the first WCC tournament.
"Our initial goal entering the season was to finish in the top four and earn a berth into the conference tournament. Without exception every player stepped up and got the job done," Littlewood said.
BYU ended up being a bubble team for the NCAA tournament, but was not selected despite strengths including a 4-4 record against nationally ranked opponents. That record came from an upset and a narrow loss at No. 2 LSU, winning two of three against No. 21 UC Irvine and winning the last of a three-game series at No. 22 Gonzaga. The Cougars also eliminated league champion Gonzaga from the WCC tournament. Prior to that tourney, BYU was impressive in an 8-3 upset at No. 13 Arizona State.
Additionally, BYU won the Deseret First Duel, winning two of three games against rival Utah.
Four Cougars were drafted and signed with professional teams following the 2013 season: Jacob Hannemann (3rd round, Chicago Cubs), Adam Law (12th round, Los Angeles Dodgers), Jaycob Brugman (17th round, Oakland A’s) and Adam Miller (22nd round, Arizona Diamondbacks).
"These four guys carried us for most of the season, but what really enabled us to have a successful season was the supporting cast of players who always seemed to rise to the occasion," Littlewood said.
Individual accolades included Brugman, Hannemann, Law and Brock Whitney named to the All-WCC First Team. Hannemann was WCC Freshman of the Year and selected to four different Freshman All-America squads (Louisville Slugger Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America, National Collegiate Baseball Writers and Perfect Game).
Hayden Nielsen joined Hannemann on the All-WCC Freshman squad. Pitchers Desmond Poulson, Matt Milke and shortstop Nielsen were honorable mention All-WCC selections. Poulson led the team with seven wins, 15 starts and 100 innings, while Milke led the team with an earned runs average of 2.15, four saves and 27 appearances.
Nielsen helped the team to the bulk of its 58 double plays as the Cougars finished 12th nationally and led the nation for several weeks in that category.
Brugman was the only Cougar named to the ABCA/Rawlings Second Team All-West Region and along with pitcher Jeff Barker was named to the all-tournament team in the WCC.
Law and Bret Lopez were named to the Academic All-WCC squad.
Hannemann and Law, who each led the team with 14 stolen bases, both tied the school record hitting two triples in one game. Law tied that record in the opening game against Utah, while Hannemann accomplished that feat in the opening game upset against No. 21 UC Irvine.
The Cougars started out the season splitting four games at the Brooks Wallace Classic hosted by Texas Tech where Brugman, Law and Poulson were named to the all-tournament team.
Weather forced a change of venue from Larry H. Miller Field to St. George, Utah, for the home opening series against Creighton where the Cougars won bookends in a three-game series. Law, who led the team in hitting at .365, was named WCC Player of the Week for that series.
BYU rebounded from three narrow losses in its league debut at San Diego as it won every remaining league series. USD went on to win the WCC tournament where it handed BYU two more losses.
A crucial turning point in the season came when utility man Cody Shepherd hit a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth inning to give the BYU baseball team a 7-6 victory over Portland in Provo.
"There were players who received more media attention than Cody, but he worked just as hard as anyone day after day, and we were all happy to see him come through for us in a crucial situation. It was a great lesson for everyone involved with our team on the importance of always being prepared and being ready when your name is called," Littlewood said.
Injuries during the Cougars' season to catchers Dakota Hernandez and Jarrett Jarvis were a challenge, in addition to being handicapped by losses at the beginning of the season to pitchers Chris Howard and Marc Oslund along with catcher Dillon Robinson and outfielder Christian Mua, who all redshirted.