Ralph R. Zobell | Posted: 28 Mar 2016 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

First-place No. 24 Cougars travel to Portland

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Week three of West Coast Conference action finds No. 24 BYU baseball still in a first-place tie and moving up the rankings as it has its first league road test at Portland.

The Cougars (20-3 and 4-2 WCC) have a three-game series at Portland (13-11, 1-2) on a new synthetic field Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m. PDT and Saturday at 11 a.m. PDT.

“They (Portland) have a new coach and they have beaten a lot of good teams,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “They like to run. We're going to see a solid pitcher on Thursday go against (Mike) Rucker. It's league play on the road and it takes a special effort to win.”

Mike Rucker (5-0, 2.29) will start on the mound for BYU on Thursday. Maverik Buffo (4-1, 4.02) starts for BYU on Friday and Connor Williams (1-0, 3.68) is scheduled to start on Saturday.

“We need to have good quality starts every time from our pitching,” Littlewood said. “We have to win the series if we want to take first in this league. It will put us in a corner if we don't go up there and win the series.”

Not making the trip to Portland is touted freshman outfielder Kyle Dean. Dean has not played in the last seven games and will miss at least six weeks due to a stress reaction in his back, according to Littlewood. No surgery will be required.

“This is devastating news to us,” Littlewood said. “He (Dean) is a guy we need in our lineup. Fortunately, we have had a couple guys step up.”

BYU is tied with Saint Mary’s College in the WCC. The Portland series comes after BYU finished a 12-game home stand with a 10-2 record.

The Cougars are ranked No. 24 in both the USA Today/Coaches and Collegiate Baseball polls and moved up a spot to No. 26 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association poll.

This week’s games at Portland will be broadcast live on ESPN960 AM Radio and also carried live over BYU Radio and Sirius Satellite 143 on Thursday and Friday.

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