The BYU baseball team has developed a strengthened sense of teamwork and chemistry amid several changes as it enters the 2012 season.
The Cougars have become a member of the West Coast Conference, completing a trio of transformations for BYU sports. With the new conference come new opponents and a tougher schedule, but the players and coaches are excited about their team’s chemistry and talent going forward.
“I’m most excited about our team camaraderie,” senior infielder Austin Hall said. “I’ve never been on a team as close and as personal as this one. We’ve got a group of great talented guys. It makes me really excited.”
The transformation to the conference brings new challenges that have the Cougars face more quality opponents than they have had to play in recent years.
“I think that the quality of the programs from top to bottom in the WCC is even better than it was in the Mountain West,” BYU coach Vance Law said. “Every program in the WCC is really good. It will be a real good challenge for us. ”
The season schedule gives the Cougars an early non-conference test as they face the preseason No. 8 University of Arkansas on Feb. 28 and 29 in Fayetteville, Ark. They also play road games against formidable opponents UC-Irvine and Creighton in early matchups.
“We don’t want to think about them being a top-10 team,” freshman pitcher Cameron Keysor said. “We just think about it being another game, and do what we need to do.”
The Cougars welcome a multitude of new players to the roster, including 10 freshmen and two junior college transfers. Among them are pitchers Mason Marshall, Matt Milke and Keysor, who all pitched well during the Dominican Republic Tour in late November.
“One of the biggest surprises we had was Cameron Keysor,” Law said. “He really dominated in the fall, and pitched well in the Dominican Republic. Matt Milke pitched a solid four innings, and Mason Marshall is capable of throwing all of his pitches for strikes at any time.”
Returning as captains for the Cougars are junior pitcher Chris Capper, senior catchers Alex Wolfe and Wes Guenther, and senior infielder Austin Hall. Also returning are several sophomores who were awarded freshman all-America honors last year, such as outfielder Jaycob Brugman, and pitchers Desmond Poulson and Marc Oslund.
“The mixture of our veteran and younger players is really good this year,” Law said. “We have a couple of sophomores and juniors that I look to have big years also, so I think our mix is really good.”
The team’s depth at almost every position is a reason for optimism as the Cougars enter the new season.
“Games are won and lost at the mound,” he said. “I’d say overall, the depth of our pitching staff is really solid.”
BYU opens the season on Feb. 17 at UC-Riverside, and their home season opener is March 17 against Seattle.