A new coaching staff revitalizes the BYU baseball team as it readies for the 2013 season and its second year in the West Coast Conference.
Cougar alum Mike Littlewood and his entire staff have been together the past three seasons at Dixie State College. There his teams captured eight league titles and made four appearances in the Junior College World Series, including winning the national title in 2004.
That staff generates enthusiasm for the coming season built around a squad that returns five position starters among its 19 lettermen.
Juniors Jaycob Brugman and Desmond Poulson highlight that list.
Brugman will switch from right to centerfield and appears on target to surpass a season that helped him earn conference Freshman of the Year honors.
“Jaycob will obviously play a huge role for us,” Littlewood said. “We are slowly convincing him he is surrounded by very good hitters, so he doesn't have to feel he has to do more than which he is capable.
“If our upperclassmen play to their potential we will have an exciting year. I'm excited about our pitching staff. We have a lot of quality arms and we are just trying to find a role for each one of those arms. We need Desmond to have a big year for us, as well as a couple of inexperienced guys to step up and have great years."
Poulson is the top pitcher returning from last season when he tallied a 3.91 earned run average in 76 innings.
Add three juniors to these returnees with All-West Coast Conference First Team outfielder Kelton Caldwell and infield starters Adam Law and Brock Whitney to get the nucleus of what Littlewood has built around. Caldwell will move from left to right field and Law moves from second to third base, while Whitney remains at first. Junior Bret Lopez can play several infield spots but may get most of his playing time as the designated hitter.
Fill in the vacated positions with junior Dillon Robinson moving from third to catcher, and Utah all-state freshmen Brennon Anderson and Hayden Nielsen at second and shortstop. Virginia freshman Nate Favero could push for one of the infield spots or at DH following a great fall camp.
Freshman Jacob Hannemann may be the most intriguing story on the team and could start at left field. Hannemann redshirted with the football team in 2012 — his brother also plays for BYU football — after returning from a mission. Prior to that mission, the Kansas City Royals had drafted Hannemann. Hannemann, Brugman and pitcher Chunner Nyberg are the only players on BYU’s team who have been drafted.
Juniors Nyberg (30 appearances), who redshirted last year, Adam Miller (24) and senior lefthander Mark Anderson (28) have the most appearances outside of Poulson on the pitching staff. Anderson will likely fill the roll of a mid-week starter, while Miller and sophomore James Lengal contend as starters for the weekend rotation.
Freshman lefty Connor Smith and lsophomore Jeff Barker could make surprise contributions to the pitching staff. Injuries/surgery play a factor as well on the mound as juniors Chris Howard, a southpaw, may be back for part of the season, while Marc Oslund, a right-handed starter for two seasons, will redshirt. Other pitchers rounding out the staff are veterans Tyler Westensee, Matt Milke, Daniel Sechrest and Daniel Welch (will redshirt), returned missionary transfer Derek Speigner via Cal Riverside, and JC transfers Devin Chavez and Drew Dennis and freshman Keaton Cenatiempo.
Other than Robinson, those receiving these pitchers at the catcher position include sophomores Jarrett Jarvis and Dakota Hernandez, and freshman Collin Braithwaite. Backing up in the outfield are senior Christian Mua, sophomore Andy Isom and utility men Brendon Erickson, Morgan Flinders and Cody Shepherd.
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