By Brett Larsen
Members of the BYU baseball team are packing their bags for an eleven-game road trip through California, starting with a three-game series at Fresno State, Feb. 1-3.
The Bulldogs, an experienced team coming off a 40-21 season last year, are just one of the four talented clubs the Cougars will face between now and Feb. 17.
“They”re all solid teams. Very competitive,” BYU assistant coach Hank Taylor said. “We”ll have to go out and play aggressively to win.”
After their series with Fresno State, the Cougars will travel to the Bay Area for two games at the University of San Francisco and three more at Cal-Berkeley next week.
Following a brief rest back home in Provo, the team will wrap up its California tour with a three-game series at Cal-Fullerton.
The Titans, ranked 12th nationally in two preseason polls, were picked to win the Big West Conference championship by six of the seven league head coaches.
The Cougars aren”t going to let facing strong teams on the road affect their morale, though, Taylor said.
“This is a pretty mature team,” he said. “They”re excited to play ball and it doesn”t matter where.”
The Cougars have plenty of reasons to be enthusiastic. Senior pitcher Nate Fernley”s stellar performance at Arizona on Jan. 25 led to an 8-4 BYU victory. In that game, Fernley – who is scheduled to start today – dished out 11 strikeouts and yielded only three hits.
Matt Carson, Seth King, Michael Davies and Lars Birkeland each had homers during two games with the Wildcats last week.
King”s .600 batting average leads the team, which is batting .346 overall.
One dark spot for BYU is the loss of catcher Steve Snow, who dislocated his left shoulder in his first at bat against Arizona.
“It looks like my season”s over,” Snow said, referring to the surgery he will likely undergo to repair it.
Cougar batters will have their hands full with Fresno State”s experienced pitching staff led by sophomore Zach Minor, who boasts a 3.60 ERA.
BYU will try to improve on its 1-1 record by beating the 1-2 Bulldogs, who are coming off a season-opening series against No. 11 Stanford.
The Cougars also hope to make a statement on their trip to California, King said.
“We want to prove something to these California teams,” he said. “This week”s going to be big.”