One of the earliest starts ever for BYU's baseball team finds the Cougars opening the season Friday at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

BYU plays a 3:30 MST nine-inning game on Friday and has a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at noon against UNLV, which has a 3-2 record following a trip last week to Hawaii.This season, all Saturday games and all night games will be broadcast live by KSRR Radio (1400 AM) with veteran Cougar announcer Raeldon Palmer calling the play-by-play.

Coach Gary Pullins enters his 13th season at the Cougar helm and says BYU is in a position to defend its Western Athletic Conference baseball crown. The Cougars have 11 lettermen, including four starters, returning from a 41-18-1 season and are ranked 22nd in pre-season by Collegiate Baseball.

Heading the list of returnees are pre-season All-America Paul Cluff at second base and a trio of junior right-handed pitchers led by John DeSilva. The best record for the Cougars last year was by Ed Zinter. And the bullpen ace from last season, Darin Kracl, has been moved to the starting rotation.

Zinter (10-2, 5.38) will get the starting pitching assignment for Friday. On Saturday, DeSilva (6-1, 3.55) will start the noon game and either Kracl (6-4-1, 6.88) or Mike Switzer will start the nightcap.

"DeSilva and Zinter have to have a good year for us to be successful, but I see no reason why we shouldn't defend as the WAC champion," says Pullins.

Moving into the bullpen duties is sophomore righthander Bart Grubbs, who can throw hard every day in short relief. There wasn't a lefthander in the pitching corps last year, but this year a pair of junior college southpaws should work in the starting rotation, Switzer and Rob Jensen.