BYU baseball prepares for Big 12 season with new recruits

As the BYU baseball team makes its way into the Big 12 Conference, its recruiting approach has changed significantly. A bigger conference means bigger opponents and more importantly, big-time athletes willing to sign.

The baseball team gained several new recruits earlier this season, including right-handed pitchers Cayson Bell and Max Stanley. Both freshmen are excited to begin their first season as Cougars, especially in the competitive Big 12.

Both Bell and Stanley were recruited by several Division-I schools, but choosing BYU was still a no-brainer.

“I was blessed to get drafted this last summer, and going through that process, BYU just had this hold on me,” Stanley said. “Choosing BYU over the draft, over the other schools, it just means so much more to me now that we’re in the Big 12. I just can’t imagine wearing anything else but the Y.”

Freshman pitcher Max Stanley winds up for a pitch. Photo courtesy of Max Stanley.

“I got recruited by all the D-I schools that reached out to me,” Bell said. “They reached out to me earlier this year, and BYU was of course one of them. Of the schools that were offering me and helping me come on visits, BYU to me felt like the right place, and I absolutely love the coaches, love the guys. Going into the Big 12 was a big part of what influenced my decision to go there as well.”

Pitching coach Abe Alvarez is excited for the new athletes that have already signed and that will continue to sign as a result of the conference change.

“We’re always looking for the best players,” Alvarez said. “What has changed being at BYU going into the Big 12 is now the interest in the school has changed, from high school players to JUCO (junior college) players. There’s been more intrigue now.”

Alvarez said he has already seen an increase in the number of players who are taking an interest in the program, both members of the Church and non-members alike.

On Nov. 10, head coach Trent Pratt announced the signing of six new players: catcher Ridge Erickson, infielder Coen Goeas, infielder Matt Hansen, infielder Tyler Hatch, pitcher Blade Paragas and catcher/outfielder Tu’alau Wolfgramm. Each player was recruited by several other schools.

Pratt had positive things to say about the new players and how they will contribute to the team this coming season.

Ridge Erickson

“Ridge is one of the best catch-and-throw catchers from the state of Utah in a long time,” Pratt said. “He is a tireless worker behind the plate and can command a pitching staff. We are excited to have him as a Cougar.”

Blade Paragas

“Coen is a real good athlete that can play multiple positions in the infield,” Pratt said. “He has gap-to-gap power and is a hard worker. We are excited about him joining our program.”

Matt Hansen

“Matt is a left-handed hitting infielder with a strong, powerful swing,” Pratt said. “He plays smart, solid defense at a great pace. We are extremely happy he is headed to Provo.”

Tyler Hatch

“Tyler is a very good infielder who can play multiple positions,” Pratt said. “He can also handle the bat and is a high character athlete that we are really excited to have joining the program.”

Coen Goeas

“Blade has huge potential on the mound,” Pratt said. “He has a presence when he pitches that is fun to watch. We can’t wait to see him take the hill for the Cougars.”

Tu’alau Wolfgramm

“Tua is one of the most dynamic athletes in the state,” Pratt said. “He can play anywhere on the field at a high level. He is going to be a really good all-around player for us.”

While the new conference will have a large impact on the players who take interest in BYU and the competition level of opposing teams, Alvarez says nothing has changed in terms of training and preparation. Listen to the audio below for his thoughts on how the coaching staff has helped the team, as well as how it’s been working with both new and returning players this off-season.

Coach Alvarez discusses how the new and old coaching staff have helped the team in the off-season.
Coach Alvarez expresses his excitement about the new players he’s been coaching over the last several months.

While they’ve only been on the team for a few months, Bell and Stanley already feel connected with both the coaches and their teammates.

“I haven’t been here for long, but I consider my teammates my brothers,” Stanley said. “With the coaches, it’s been awesome. Trent does a great job building relationships and making sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Abe, he’s always on the pitchers, letting us know how we can become better. Cooley (Tyler Coolbaugh) and Adam (Adam Law), I love them.”

“I love them, and it’s pretty cool how quickly you come to get to know the guys and come together to be brothers,” Bell said. “We absolutely love the coaches, and we just got two new coaches this year. We have tons of transfers this year, so many new guys, and we just came together really quickly, and it’s really cool to see that.”

Both staff and players are ready to begin their season in a little over two months. Their first matchups are against the University of South Carolina, Ohio State and Grand Canyon University in the MLB Desert Invitational.

The team knows its first Big 12 season will come with many challenges, but the players look forward to the positive changes that will come with the new conference and are ready to show what BYU is made of.

“I think the biggest thing for me moving into the Big 12 is the challenge of competition and getting to play in front of a ton of fans,” outfielder Cooper Vest said. “In the WCC, we had the highest attendance of fans by a lot, but in the Big 12 I think we’ll be kind of on the lower end of things. So I’m really excited to play in front of a lot of fans and in some loud atmospheres. Baseball’s not always exciting, so it’ll add a lot of adrenaline for both the fans and the players.”

Alvarez knows the team has the talent and drive necessary to win despite their fierce competition in the Big 12.

“The goal is to win the conference, to win as many games as we can and show that BYU is ready to play in the Big 12 Conference,” Alvarez said. “Obviously saying it is one thing and doing it a different thing, but the mentality our players have right now is they believe they can do it, and as a staff, we’re right there with them. We believe we can win as many games as we want. It’s just about putting things together on the field.”

Bell knows how important it is to win as an elite college team, but he is more focused on putting his best effort into each game regardless of results.

“We want to see how many games we can win obviously, but I think a big thing for us that we’ve been talking about this fall is just competing,” Bell said. “If you go out and lose a game, but you play like crap, it doesn’t feel too good. But if you go out and compete and it’s a good game, and in the end, they just happen to have a hit fall and you didn’t and they win, it’s different. So I think competing every single pitch and every single game is what our goal is, and not focusing on the outcome but focusing on the process.”

Stanley is also excited to play to the best of his ability and represent BYU in his first season as a Cougar.

“I think honestly, we’re just going to be ourselves,” Stanley said. “We’re going to be BYU baseball. We’re going to represent the school and represent the Church, and we’re just going to play our baseball that we know. We are going to face some greater competition, and so be it. We have ours against theirs. We are who we are and we’re gonna go after it with the best that we have.”

The team’s first home matchup will be on Feb. 29 against Gonzaga before playing its first game against a Big 12 foe March 7 at West Virginia.

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