Baseball team looks to redeem itself this weekend

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    By JOEL WHITE

    After being swept in three straight games on the road by San Jose State last weekend, the BYU baseball team is looking to rebound at home in a three-game series that starts today against the University of Utah.

    The Cougars have an 18-14 record coming into today’s game, with a 4-8 record in the Western Athletic Conference, good enough for second place in the North Division.

    Coach Gary Pullins said despite the team’s winning record, the Cougars are still struggling to establish consistency this season.

    “We’re trying to get into a winning mode, because 18-14 isn’t where we want to be based on our team’s talent level,” Pullins said.

    The Utah series should provide an opportunity to get back on a winning track, following the three losses to San Jose State.

    “(Utah) is struggling right now,” Pullins said. The Utes are 1-9 in league play, 11-21 overall.

    Despite the Utes’ record, Pullins isn’t taking anything for granted, but now is the time for the Cougars to take charge, he said.

    “(The North Division) has the tendency of beating each other up,” Pullins said. “We’ve been very mediocre at times this season, but the way the division is, no one has taken charge.”

    Pullins will send freshman right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to the hill for the Cougars in today’s game. Guthrie is 3-3 with a 6.04 earned run average this season. Saturday’s scheduled starters are freshman right-hander Wesley Zlotoff (0-2, 4.57) in the first game and sophomore righty Todd Crump (5-2, 5.87) pitching the nightcap.

    Despite scoring only 10 runs in the three games against San Jose State, BYU is averaging nearly nine runs a game this season. The Cougars bring a .338 team batting average into today’s game, with sophomore centerfielder Troy McNaughton hitting .391 with 10 home runs and 37 runs batted in.

    “We’re pleased with McNaughton’s play, but we’re not surprised,” Pullins said. “He’s playing up to his abilities. Unfortunately, some of the other players aren’t.”

    Senior Troy Farnsworth (.367, 6, 27), junior Ryan Pond (.363, 6, 30) and senior Brad Winget (.357, 4, 18) are other offensive standouts for BYU.

    This weekend’s series is a perfect chance for the Cougars to improve enough to start a run for the division crown, Pullins said.

    “We’re looking at this series against Utah as our chance to start a new season in a way,” he said.

    Of the Cougars’ remaining 21 games this season, only six will be played on the road: a three-game series against Grand Canyon University in Phoenix April 10 and 11, and three games against the Utes in Salt Lake and Ogden in early May.

    BYU’s home record during Pullins’ 22-year tenure as head coach is 370-77-2. The Cougars are 5-2 at home this season, including a four-game winning streak last week.

    The remaining schedule is reason enough for Pullins to be optimistic for the rest of the season.

    “There’s a lot of season left,” he said. “We’re in a really good position. It’s not as if it’s the first of May and we’re out of the playoff picture. It’s the first of April, we’ve got most of our remaining games here at home and we’ve got a good ballclub.”

    Today’s game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start at Cougar Field, west of the Marriott Center. Saturday’s double-header is scheduled to start at noon.

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