(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Three games at Huntsville, Texas provide the season opener for BYU baseball as it plays Sam Houston State, starting on Thursday.
Thursday's game will be under the lights as Cougar senior Jesse Craig (7-7, 4.70) takes the mound. The Cougars will have their first workout outdoors on Wednesday evening under the lights at "The Yard," Baseball USA's facility in Houston. All previous practices this season have been inside at BYU's Indoor Practice Facility.
Prior to that practice, the Cougars are hopeful of a tour to NASA's Johnson Space Center.
"Our pitching is deeper than before, we have Apana Nakayama returning to anchor our hitters and we have several newcomers who have a lot of speed," said BYU Coach Vance Law, now in his eight-year at the Cougar helm.
Behind Craig, the Cougars will start sophomore pitchers Jake Wortham (0-0, 3.49) and Jordan Muir Jordan Muir (6-0, 3.97), in Friday and Saturday afternoon's games, respectively Wortham, a southpaw, is one of five with Texas ties on this year's team, and Muir was a freshman All-America last season.
Besides Craig, who was selected pre-season All-Mountain West Conference by Baseball America magazine, the Cougars return only two other starters from last season, sophomores Kent Walton and Kasey Ko. Walton has moved to second base as the Cougars have more speed in the outfield with transfer Leon Johnson and freshman Jonathan Cluff, expected to start in center and right fields. Nakayama, who was named pre-season All-MWC by the league coaches, is scheduled start in left field.
BYU was 33-28 last year, while SHSU posted a 23-31 record in 2006.
The series also is the season opener for the Bearkats, under the first-year leadership of Coach Mark Johnson, who used to be at Texas A & M, and brought three Aggies with him and also has transfers from LSU and Missouri. SHSU has made several appearances in the NCAA Regionals and won the NAIA title in 1963. BYU beat the Bearkats in their only meeting in 1991, 8-6.
Thursday's game will be broadcast live on the Internet. All of this week's games will have live stats. This is the first of two trips to Texas for the Cougars, who will log more than 8,500 miles traveling this season to places like Oregon, Kansas and a tournament in Tennessee.
Following the three-game series at Sam Houston State, BYU flies next week to Portland, Ore., for a two-game series against the University of Portland.
BYU's home season begins on March 1 against Northern Colorado.
For more information on BYU's baseball team for this week, click on the PDF link at the top of this page.