Baseball begins for BYU this season on Thursday in a three-game series at the University of Arizona.
This is a long-awaited season for the Cougars who play 23 road games before opening in their new 2,300-seat home facility, Miller Park, currently under construction.
"Our time is over being intimidated by big programs," said second-year BYU Coach Vance Law, whose team was 29-29 last season. "The next three weeks will tell us if we can compete with the big boys. We're not going to Arizona to steal some victories, we are trying to win each series."
BYU plays at the University of Arizona at 3 p.m., on Thursday and Friday, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Expected to start on the mound for BYU are senior Nate Fernley (1-4, 3.46 in 2000), junior lefty James Ray (3-4, 7.49), and either freshman Jeff Stearman or transfer Ryan Adams. Fernley is BYU's most experienced pitcher with 24 appearances and six saves last season.
Other probable Cougar starters are: Lance Birkeland at catcher, Ty Haguewood at first base, Tyler Perry at second base, Seth King at shortstop, Kainoa Obrey at third base, Aaron Whitley in left field, Shane Belliston in centerfield, Matt Carson in right field, and either Cameron Coughlan or Michael Davies as the designated hitter.
The Cougars will take a 27-man squad to Arizona. Injuries have forced BYU pitchers Jeff Stone (elbow) and Brandon Boothe (shoulder) to delay appearances.
"We are less experienced on the mound, but our nucleus on the whole team is of players who are more confident. They know what to expect of me.
"We've been able to hit fly balls outside for the past two weeks and we are getting more swings than anybody, so there isn't an area we haven't covered," said Law.
Among the Cougars to watch are sophomores Carson, who played in Tucson for a week last summer in a tryout for the U.S. National Team, and Obrey, who was selected along with Carson for freshman All-America honors. King, a senior shortstop, has shown a lot of improvement in the off-season. King, Belliston, and Fernley were selected as team captains.
Arizona, currently with a 3-1 record after opening the season last week at Hawai'i-Hilo, was the opponent who provided Law with his first collegiate victory last season. The Cougars won a two-game series last season at Tucson, 15-9 and 8-1. Arizona leads the series with BYU, 17-7. None of this week's games will be broadcast on the radio or the Internet.
Following the games at Arizona, the Cougars are next in action, Feb. 1-3, at Fresno State.