Cory Snyder would snicker. Wally Joyner would laugh. Mike Willes would scratch his head. BYU baseball is making a living off hitting for average and running the bases. The old BYU Bombers have gone with the light and lean look.
The Cougars, who are playing this week in the prestigious Riverside Tournament, were 16-8 following a 5-4 loss to Arizona State Thursday night. Oddly enough, through that game the Cougars had collected but 15 homers. At this stage last year BYU's home run production was at 71. By comparison, last year BYU had stolen 33 bases to date, compared with 50 this year.Apparently the lack of deep ball hitting hasn't hurt things. The Sun Devils were ranked in the top 10 in the nation and the Cougars took it to the bottom of the ninth before losing by a run. Righthander Darin Kracl went 82/3 innings, striking out 10.
Two weeks ago the Cougars made a decent stand in Honolulu, splitting a doubleheader against Hawaii.
While the Cougars have always hit for a good average, home runs have been the staple. Not anymore. BYU has eight batters hitting over .300, led by Randy Wilstead, a transfer from Utah Valley Junior College who prepped at Brighton High. Wilstead is hitting .477 so far, leading the team in doubles (9) and RBI (36). His three homers is high on the team.
Second leading hitter is infielder Paul Cluff, who has a .442 average and 30 RBI.
Although BYU turned in some impressive performances, including 19-5 and 6-0 wins over Nevada-Las Vegas, the Cougars have had their problems, too. Last weekend they opened up their home season by staggering through a doubleheader split with Cal Poly-Pomona. They won the opener 14-13 and lost the nightcap 11-10. "It was no clinic," mused Coach Gary Pullins.
Pitching, which has normally been a problem early for the Cougars, has been fairly steady. The right-handed threesome of Ed Zinter (1-3, 7.98), Kracl (4-1, 4.68) and John DeSilva (5-2, 4.82) has been good enough to move Hawaii coach Les Murakami to call them (College) "World Series caliber." Hawaii writers termed them the best three pitchers in the WAC. Zinter stepped out of the starting rotation this week for one game to work on technique. He was 10-2 last season, but has struggled this year.
Junior Mike Switzer has filled a lefty void with a 1-0 record and a 3.63 ERA.
Meanwhile, right-hander Bart Grubbs has a 2-0 record with a phenomenal 0.628 ERA in 14 innings pitched. He was moved to starter against Harvard and responded with a 12-5 win. He struck out eight and allowed just one hit in six innings.
BYU continues with games at Riverside through the weekend, then plays at Utah on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.