With 22 new faces and a newfound team unity, the captains of the BYU baseball team expect a successful, exciting season. The team’s four captains, seniors Brock Whitney, Desmond Poulson and Chris Howard and sophomore Hayden Nielsen, told us what they think about the upcoming season.
What is the biggest challenge the team faces this year?
Poulson: Winning is always a challenge in my eyes because you are always facing an opponent, and every day you have a new challenge … it’s not just one set challenge.
Nielsen: We had a really good team last year and lost some key guys. But I think the young guys stepping up has been a big thing for our team. We have the pitching. We have the defense. We have the bats; I think we have an all-around good baseball team.
How does losing four starters and gaining 22 new players affect the team’s unity?
Howard: I think it’s even better than last year. I don’t think we skipped a beat. We’ve picked up where those guys left off. They’ve left good examples for the guys that will fill their shoes, and I think it will be ten times better than what it was last year. The unity is awesome.
Whitney: It’s been about six months since we’ve all been together so … after this much time I think we’ve all gotten to know each other, and I think we’ve got good team chemistry and overcame our differences.
How does a deeper roster affect this year’s team?
Poulson: If you’re doing bad this year, someone else will fill your shoes. It’s not a question of, “Is he gonna do well? Can we still put him out there?” It’s, “someone else will do your job if you’re not doing it.”
Whitney: We don’t really know who is going to play because of people stepping up, doing different things, so I think that has helped us a lot. Nobody feels secure of, like, their position is entitled to them. It has pushed all of us to be better.
Last season, Coach Littlewood had the team read “Lone Survivor.” What effect did that have on the team’s outlook?
Nielsen: I thought it was an awesome book. You have four guys who have each other’s back, and for them to do what they did against that many, it’s pretty remarkable. And if those four guys can do it, I think the sky’s the limit for the team.
Poulson: The team’s attitude was like, “We love each other!” You’re a brotherhood. You get to know everything there is to know about your teammates because you’re with them so much. What we learned from that book was to do everything you can in order to win, in order to survive, in Marcus Luttrell’s case.
Howard: It kind of related to us and baseball. We have to sacrifice our own, and we have to do the little things that are going to matter and go in the trenches for everybody to win and to succeed.
Whitney: It made us never want to quit. A lot of games (last year) we won coming from behind, and I anticipate we’ll have that same mentality this year, and hopefully we’ll keep winning those close ball games.
So what are your bold predictions for this season? What does the team plan to achieve?
Poulson: I don’t like to predict because I think it’s just weird, but we have a lot of guys that will do great this year.
Nielsen: Our first goal is to make it to our conference tournament and hopefully win that tournament and then regional, and then super regional and then Omaha.
Whitney: I fully expect us to win the West Coast Conference and get our first bid in a long time to the NCAA tournament.
Howard: Omaha. That’s the one big prediction. The way I look at it, grab your popcorn and get ready for the show. You don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re going to surprise a lot of people.
Weather permitting, BYU starts play with a four-game series at Kansas beginning on Feb. 14. The Cougars have 12 road games scheduled before their first home contest against Utah, scheduled for March 4.