BYU baseball embarks on its final season in the WCC
A solid core of returning starters joins a promising group of newcomers as BYU baseball sets its sights on a West Coast Conference title and a return trip to the WCC tournament as well as the NCAA regionals in the Cougars' final year before entering the Big 12.
A total of 21 players return from a baseball squad that advanced to the 2022 WCC baseball tournament under new head baseball coach Trent Pratt, including First-Team All-WCC third baseman Austin Deming. Six other All-WCC honorees, shortstop Brock Watkins, second baseman Ozzie Pratt, outfielder Ryan Sepede, catcher Collin Reuter as well as pitchers Jack Sterner and Bryce Robison are also back from the 2022 squad, plus two other returning starters, Cole Gambill and Carter Smith, who were All-WCC honorees in 2021.
New in 2023
In addition, 19 talented newcomers joined the BYU baseball program in the offseason, including five who returned from serving two-year missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—catcher Bryant Ball, pitcher/first baseman Cutter Clawson, pitcher Ben Hansen as well as infielders Chad Call and Cam Decker.
They are joined by transfers Safea Mauai, an outfielder/first baseman from the University of Hawaii, as well as former teammates at College of Southern Idaho lefthanded pitcher Mason Olson and outfielder Tate Gambill, who was the Scenic West Athletic Conference 2022 Player of the Year.
“We have a lot of returning experience in our position guys and we are expecting some of the new, talented players to contribute offensively as well,” said Pratt, who enters his first full season as head coach of the BYU baseball program. “We have some power in the lineup and I think we have the potential to be very good offensively.”
Around the Infield
In the field the Cougars return starters in seven of the eight defensive positions, including third baseman Deming. In 2022, he led the Cougars in batting average (.302) and was in the top three in 12 offensive categories, including games started (51), runs (33), hits (57), hit by pitch (10) and third in at bats (189), doubles (14), home runs (5), RBI (28) slugging (.466) and OBP (.378). In addition to being selected as First-Team All-WCC, Deming was also named WCC Player of the Week on May 9.
BYU returns the rest of its starting infield led by three-year starter Watkins at shortstop. An ironman for the Cougars, Watkins started all 53 games in 2022. The junior led BYU in seven offensive categories, including at bats (209), runs (39), hits (63), homers (8), triples (3), total bases (101) and slugging (.483).
He is joined by sophomore second baseman Pratt who hit .288 on the year and was top five in several offensive categories, including hits (45) and stolen bases (5). Pratt was named the WCC Player of the Week on April 11 and was also selected to the 2022 WCC All-Freshman team.
Rounding out the returning starters on the infield is Jacob Wilk at first base. Wilk played in 41 games in 2022 with six home runs and 17 RBI. During WCC play, he was top 10 in the conference in several offensive categories including batting average (.368), slugging percentage (.667), OBP (.464) and OPS (1.131).
Returning sophomore catcher Reuter started 42 of the 52 games behind the plate in 2022 and was also named to the WCC All-Freshman team. Reuter was second on the team in home runs (6), while scoring 28 times and driving in 24 runs. Backup catcher Chase Peterson, who saw action in 14 games last year, returns for his senior season.
In the Outfield
The Cougars also return two starting outfielders from last year’s squad including Sepede a 2022 All-WCC honoree and Cole Gambill, who was named All-WCC in 2021. Gambill will move from right field to center with Sepede taking his spot in right.
Sepede led the 2022 Cougars in RBI (45) and was in the top three in eight other offensive categories, including batting average (.289), hits (54), total bases (89), walks (19), slugging (.476), doubles (16) and triples. He had the fourth most RBI in 2022 of any returning player in the WCC.
Gambill, who missed 19 games in the middle of the 2022 season due to an injury, has twice been named to the WCC All-Academic Team. Gambill was honored as WCC Player of the Week on Feb. 28 for his performance in leading BYU to four-straight wins over Ohio State and ASU. In 33 games last season, Gambill hit .272, with six home runs, 29 RBI, 22 walks and 28 runs scored.
Other returning position players with plenty of game experience include designated hitter Josh Cowden who hit .252 with 18 runs scored and 13 RBI in 44 games; outfielder Dawsen Hall who scored 11 times and drove in 11 runs in 29 appearances; and infielder Alex Sardina who hit .283 with 11 RBI in 20 games. Cooper Vest, a first baseman/outfielder who played in 27 games in 2021 but sat out last season on a medical redshirt, is once again healthy.
Additional newcomers who could see action in 2023 include freshmen outfielder Luke Anderson, infielders Sam Beck and Easton Jones as well as catchers Parker Goff and Easton Romero.
On the Hill
The Cougars return two regular series starters on the mound from last year’s rotation including two-year starter Jack Sterner and Bryce Robison.
An All-WCC second-team honoree in 2022, Sterner led BYU in games started (13), innings pitched (69) and strikeouts (61). The sophomore right hander compiled a record of 4-3, with an ERA of 3.26, best among Cougar starters. In conference games, he has the fifth-best ERA (3.18) of any returning pitcher in the WCC.
Robison led the Cougars with a record of 7-1 that included nine starts and one save. The junior right hander from Las Vegas was second in innings pitched (60.2) and was named WCC Pitcher of the Week on April 11. He had the fourth most wins in 2022 of any returning pitcher in the WCC.
“We have two returning starters on the mound that will be our pitching strength and several relievers who have logged a lot of innings,” said Pratt. “We lost the core of our bullpen to the 2022 MLB Draft, but we have a bunch of young guys that are talented and anxious to step up and fill that role for us.”
Other returning pitchers from the 2022 staff include junior right-handers Smith, Peyton Cole and lefty Boston Mabeus, who together appeared in a combined 48 games with a 3-2 record. Returning sophomore pitchers include righties Carter Foss and Jake Porter, who made a combined 21 relief appearances as freshmen in 2022.
Newcomers who could see early action on the mound include freshmen right-handed pitchers Payton Gubler, Ben Hansen, Jameson Ferraro as well as lefty Justis Reiser who sat out the 2022 season on a medical redshirt.
Trent Pratt was named head coach of the BYU baseball program on June 8, 2022. Prior to his appointment, Pratt had been an integral part of the Cougar baseball staff for the previous 10 years, including four season as associate head coach. During those 10 years he served as the hitting coach, worked with the catchers and took the lead in scheduling.
Pratt served as the interim BYU head coach for the final 25 games of the 2022 season. He guided the Cougars to an overall record of 16-9 (.640) and was 10-6 (.626) in WCC games. He led BYU to a fourth-place conference finish and a spot in the 2022 WCC Baseball Tournament by winning nine of the final 10 regular-season games. Following the 2022 season, a total of 11 Cougars received postseason baseball honors from the conference, the most since 1961.
In addition, four members of the 2022 BYU baseball team—Andrew Pintar, Cy Nielson, Nate Dahle and Cooper McKeehan—were selected in the MLB Draft held at Xbox Plaza in Los Angeles, July 17-19. The four picks in the first 20 rounds of the baseball draft matches the highest total in BYU history, tying the 2002, 1986, 1983, 1982 and 1979 Cougar squads who also had four.
BYU opens the 2023 schedule with back-to-back series in the state of Louisiana. The opening four-game series is set for Feb. 17-20 versus LA Tech at Pat Patterson Park in Ruston. The Cougars will then travel three-hours south to Lafayette for a four-game series with the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana Lafayette at Russo Park, Feb. 22-25.
BYU then returns to Utah for a midweek game with crosstown rival UVU at UCCU Ballpark in Orem on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The Cougars then open the 2023 home schedule with a three-game series with the University of Nebraska at Omaha March 2-4 at Miller Park.
For the rest of the 2023 baseball schedule visit BYUcougars.com.
2022 WCC Honors for Returning Players
- Austin Deming — All-WCC First Team, WCC Player of the Week (May 9)
- Brock Watkins — All-WCC Second Team
- Jack Sterner — All-WCC Second Team
- Ozzie Pratt — All-WCC Honorable Mention, All-WCC Freshman Team, WCC Player of the Week (April 11)
- Bryce Robison — All-WCC Honorable Mention, WCC Pitcher of the Week (April 11)
- Ryan Sepede — All-WCC Honorable Mention
- Collin Reuter — All-WCC Freshman Team
- Cole Gambill — WCC Player of the Week (April 11), WCC All-Academic Baseball Team, WCC Commissioner’s Gold Honor Roll
- Boston Mabeus — WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention, WCC Commissioner’s Bronze Honor Roll
- Carter Foss — WCC Commissioner’s Silver Honor Roll
- Alex Sardina — WCC Commissioner’s Silver Honor Roll
- Justis Reiser — WCC Commissioner’s Bronze Honor Roll
2022 Athletic Honors for Returning Players
- Cole Gambill — All-WCC Second Team
- Carter Smith — All-WCC Honorable Mention
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