BYU baseball: Cougars play season opener vs. Kansas in Arizona

By Ralph R. Zobell

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Feb. 10 2014 9:29 p.m. MST

As spring training heats up, BYU’s baseball team plays Kansas this week to start a four-game series at a Cactus League site in Peoria, Ariz.

The Cougars (32-21 in 2013) and Jayhawks (34-25 in 2013) open with a four-game series Feb. 14-17 at the Mariners/Padres Spring Training Peoria Sports Complex.

BYU was picked to finish seventh in the West Coast Conference after tying for second last season in its second year in the league and first under coach Mike Littlewood. The Cougars return 17 lettermen and have 17 newcomers, including 10 transfers, five of whom are from Salt Lake Community College. The Cougars have been practicing indoors this year except for a pair of outdoor practices at St. George last weekend.

"We are chomping at the bit to get out from under the roof and get the season started," Littlewood said. "We have a little more depth than last year which will enable us to match up more effectively. There's also a better comfort level, and a better understanding among the players and coaches as to how we want to build a game and use our personnel."

Senior co-captain Desmond Poulson (7-2, 3.24) will get the starting nod on the mound for Friday’s opener at 1 p.m. MST. Poulson was recently named second team All-West Coast Conference by College Sports Madness on its preseason roundup. Fellow co-captain Brock Whitney was a first team preseason selection by College Sports Madness and by the WCC coaches. Sophomore Hayden Nielsen, another co-captain, was also a preseason first team selection by WCC coaches.

Recently returned missionaries Kolton Mahoney and Hayden Rogers are scheduled to be the starting pitchers in Saturday’s doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. MST. Mahoney, a sophomore, was 3-2 with a 2.42 earned run average in 2011 prior to his mission. Rogers, a southpaw, is a true freshman.

Junior Jeff Barker (6-3, 3.67), BYU’s number two starter last season behind Poulson, is scheduled to start the last of the four-game series on Monday at 11 a.m. MST.

BYU won the bookends of a three-game series last year against Kansas in Provo. Kansas is picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 Conference by the league coaches.

After the series in Arizona, BYU travels to Corpus Christi, Texas, to play in the Kleberg Bank Classic against host Texas A&M Corpus Christi, nationally ranked TCU and Texas San Antonio, while the team also travels to Port Charlotte, Fla., on Feb. 21-24 for the Snowbird Classic.

Ralph R. Zobell has worked for BYU Athletic Media Relations in various capacities for over 30 years. You can view his bio at http://byucougars.com/staff/athletics/ralph-zobell or contact him at ralph_zobell@byu.edu.

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