After winning its first season series, against UC Riverside, the BYU baseball team will face off in its West Coast Conference debut against the St. Mary Gaels Thursday.
While receiving no WCC preseason all-conference votes, BYU hopes to show the new conference what it is made of. BYU will face a talented team in St. Mary’s, which although it was picked to finish sixth in the WCC, had five players chosen to the preseason all-WCC team.
BYU hopes to make an impact on the conference with its young talent. Three sophomores for BYU were named to freshman All-American teams last year, including outfielder Jaycob Brugman and pitchers Mark Oslund and Desmond Poulson. Brugman batted an impressive .319 last year while also knocking in 49 runs to be named MWC Freshman of the Year. Oslund was 7-1 for the 2011 season with a 2.49 ERA and 59 strikeouts. Poulson won every game he started, posting a 6-0 record with 49 strikeouts in 15 appearances. The Cougars plan on using these three to their advantage this season as they look to make an impact on the WCC.
Five players for St. Mary’s were selected to the pre-season all-WCC team, including senior infielder Troy Channing and pitcher Kyle Barraclough, along with outfielder Brenden Kalfus, infielder Patrick Wisdom and pitcher Martin Agosta.
BYU will have its hands full with both Barraclough and Agosta, who had season ERAs of 3.60 and 2.81, respectively, last year. So far this season, the Gaels’ pitching staff has an ERA of 0.49 through four games, while also holding their opponents to a .192 batting average. Agosta will be on the mound Thursday, while Barraclough will start Friday for the Gaels.
The Cougars are coming off an 11-12 season last year in the Mountain West Conference, with a 31-27 overall record on the season. In the preseason polls this year, BYU was picked to finish seventh, while the Gaels were picked to finish sixth. BYU is 6-1 all time against St. Mary’s and hopes to come out strong in its conference opener.
Head coach Vance Law said his team is ready for the early competition against the Gaels.
“We are looking forward to the league opener, which has come mighty early as a result of previous scheduling before we were conference members,” said Law in a BYU press release. “Both teams are at the same disadvantage.”
Senior infielder and team co-captain Austin Hall said though there may be some disadvantages to such an early conference series, the team is up to the challenge.
“As a team we have a tendency to play our best toward the end of the year,” Hall said. “But we are really optimistic about this season and we think we can go out there and beat anybody. We’re hoping to be 9-1 against St. Mary’s after this [series] and we all think we will be.”
Brugman also said he is confident in his team and the potential they have for a successful season.
“We’re ready for anything,” Brugman said. “Our goal is to win every series and we can hang with any team if we just keep our focus.”
Brugman also hopes to improve upon his freshman season for the Cougars, where he earned multiple MWC honors.
“I’m just trying to do my best,” Brugman said. “Our focus for the team is to have team at-bats and quality at-bats so if I can get the job done to help the team, then that’s all I want.”
Junior pitcher Mark Anderson, who will start on the hill for the second game of the series on Friday, said he is prepared for a competitive matchup with the Gaels.
“I want to throw a lot of strikes and limit my walks because I hear they’re a pretty good bunting team,” Anderson said. “I also want to make sure I’m agile off the mound and that I play my part of the game. If the fielders and hitters do their part, then we’ll get a ‘W.’ ”
The series starts Thursday at 2 p.m. PST with junior Chris Capper on the mound for the Cougars. Mark Anderson will start Friday at 2 p.m. while sophomore Adam Miller will close out the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. The first two games will be broadcast on BYU Radio 960 AM, while Saturday’s game will be broadcast by St. Mary’s.