By Marc Buchanan
The BYU baseball team, off its second best start in school history with a 21-7-1 record, will face a tough test this weekend as they travel to face the UNLV Rebels in a three-game series tomorrow through Saturday.
The two teams are currently tied for first place in the Mountain West Conference with 8-1 league records. BYU head coach Vance Law said UNLV is a talented team with nice pitching.
?I look for three close ballgames against UNLV,? Law said. ?I have a great deal of confidence in what our offense is capable of doing and I?m not afraid of any pitching staff because our guys swing the bat well.?
The Rebels have the current MWC player of the week in Mike Cruz, who boasts a .366 batting average and 10 RBI. Cougar co-captain Kory Knell said they are aware of what the Rebels can do.
?This is a huge weekend for us,? Knell said. ?We need to come out and play consistently because consistency is the difference between a good team and a great team, and we want to show that we are a great team.?
BYU is leading the MWC in several statistics including batting average, slugging percentage, RBIs, homeruns and total bases. A big part of those stats have been contributed by Brandon Taylor, who has a team-high 11 home runs, and Sean McNaughton, who leads the team in RBIs, total bases and slugging percentage.
?It feels great to be out there and contributing to the team,? McNaughton said. ?We are competitive as players and it drives the whole team.? ?We are getting tons of wins and that feels awesome as well.?
McNaughton said that he expects the team to come out strong against the Rebels and come home in first place.
BYU is currently ranked No. 30 in national polls and could receive more national attention with a strong showing against UNLV. With 26 games left in the season, Law said the team needs to keep winning in order to receive a berth into a NCAA regional game.
?We figured that we would be around 20 wins at this point of the season if we played up to our potential,? Law said. ?Overall I am extremely pleased with where we are at.?
After the UNLV series, the Cougars will return to play at home, where they are undefeated this season, next week for a non-conference matchup against Lewis & Clark State. BYU will return to MWC action on April 14 when they host San Diego State.