Several times it looked like BYU’s baseball team would exceed a predicted fifth place in 2010 when two league foes had best-ever seasons.
The Cougars, 27-31 overall, finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference with a 12-12 record as coach Vance Law molded the young squad.
"I was proud of the way our team competed all year," said Law. "In spite of the injuries that hampered our pitching depth, our staff worked very hard and gained a lot of experience for next year which should make us that much better.
"Offensively, we had a very solid year and a lot of guys came through in a big way, which helped us win a bunch of games in comeback fashion. I thought we were in almost every game because of the way we competed at the plate."
MWC champion TCU advanced to the College World Series and second-place New Mexico went to the NCAA post-season for the first time in nearly 50 years.
BYU handed then No. 4 TCU the first loss on its home field and was only one of five teams to do so in 2010. Following that 5-4 win, BYU picked up a three-game sweep over UNLV and had a 4-2 league record.
The Cougars took TCU into extra innings in Provo, beat New Mexico for one of its eight home losses and ousted third-place host San Diego State from the league tourney. The Cougars had a 6-0 lead over the Lobos before being eliminated by them, 7-6, in the MWC quarterfinals.
Another highlight from the MWC Tournament was a 25-18 victory to eliminate rival Utah in a game where BYU tied the NCAA record by hitting three grand slam home runs. Two of those slams were by senior outfielder Sean McNaughton, the only Cougar named to the all-tourney team, as he set an MWC tourney record and the third was by sophomore third baseman Austin Hall.
BYU won the series advantage over eight opponents this past season, No. 20 Kansas State, Utah, San Diego State, UC Davis, Washington, UNLV, San Jose State and Air Force.
However, just as the Cougars would gather momentum, injuries would set them back. BYU had a 3-8 record against nationally ranked teams, including No. 2 Arizona State. BYU had a 6-11 record against teams advancing to the NCAA post-season, ASU, TCU, Washington State, Kansas State, Baylor, New Mexico and Texas A&M in playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
Second baseman Andrew Law tore a hamstring the second week of the season. Second-unit catcher Wes Guenther was out for the season the second week of April with shoulder surgery. Starting pitcher Matthew Neil went out for the season with an oblique injury the middle of April. Starting catcher Bryce Ayoso caught every game, 22 in a row, following Guenther’s injury, then he separated his shoulder in the last home game of the season.
Those injuries caused a couple Cougars to rise to the occasion. Alex Wolfe had been playing at first and third as he recuperated from last year’s season-ending injury and he ended up as the starting catcher. Wolfe was one of seven Cougars to bat over .333 with a .355 average and led the team with 63 RBI and was twice named MWC Player of the Week, vs. Washington and vs. Utah.
Shortstop Brandon Relf and outfielder Jonathan Cluff had strong senior seasons. Relf led the team with a .358 batting average, 91 hits and 66 runs in aiding BYU to finish as the No. 6 team in the nation in double plays. Cluff was among the NCAA leaders in triples and had seven assists, including three in one game from right field and batted .358.
Dane Nielsen, the 22nd-toughest to strike out in the NCAA, had a great year batting .347 and playing a solid second base in spite of playing the last month with a broken finger. Reliever Kevin Sloan ended up leading the team with a 9-2 record and a 3.15 ERA.
McNaughton, Relf and Sloan were named second team All-MWC. Guenther, Hardesty and Parry were named MWC Scholar Athletes along with joining Cluff, Hall, McNaughton, Michon, Nielsen, Sloan and Stephen Wells on the Academic All-MWC squad.