February may seem a little early for baseball, but coach Gary Pullins will take the BYU baseball team to Hawaii for the season opening series on Feb. 7-9.
The Cougars finished second in the Western Athletic Conference race last year with an overall record of 43-25-1 and participated in their eighth NCAA regional where they lost to eventual champion Mississippi State.Hawaii opened its season last week at home with two victories and one defeat against the University of Washington. The Rainbows are traditionally a power in the WAC but were eliminated in two straight games last year from the WAC tournament.
Pullins has been working the Cougars hard indoors in preparation for the earliest WAC opening ever. "It's a little tough on us some times, but it is a fairly easy transition to move from indoors to the carpet in Hawaii," Pullins commented.
The probable starting line-up for the Cougars will be: C-Blaine Milne, 1B-Chris Cooper, 2B-Jonathan Lopez, SS-Gabe Diaz, 3B- Rick Lyman, LF-Darren Milne, CF-Troy Hymas, RF-Brian Simpson, DH-Brent Brown.
The Cougars will open with sophomore righthander Mike Nielsen (4- 4, 5.77). Senior lefthander Rob Jensen (2-1, 2.88) will pitch the opener of the Friday double-header with senior southpaw Lance Clark (8- 6, 2.84) pitching the nightcap. Freshman righthander David Madsen will start the concluding game for the Cougars.
Other players to watch are outfielders John Wagner and Brent Christenson and freshman pitcher Ryan Hancock who was drafted by the California Angels and was listed as the 14th best prospect among freshmen by Baseball America. Hancock redshirted as a quarterback for the football team this year.
The Hawaii games count in the WAC standings. Following the BYU-UH series, the Cougars are idle in league play until April 12.
BYU will return to action Feb. 16 in Arizona and will have its first home game March 15.