PROVO When discussing the recently completed BYU baseball season, outfielder Kent Walton doesn't waste much time uttering the "D" word as in disappointment.
The Cougars finished 22-36, their first losing season since 2004 and their worst campaign since posting a 26-31 mark in 1999. Not only did BYU finish No. 4 in the Mountain West Conference, but it also lost both games in the MWC Tournament to close out the disheartening campaign.
"It was a big disappointment for me personally and for us a team," Walton said. "I had expected to help out the team better than I did.
"Anything less than a Mountain West Conference championship is not acceptable. We need to play better baseball. Our hitting was fine, but we needed to throw more strikes and play better defense. It was disappointing."
Coach Vance Law was also disappointed in his team's play.
"It's been a rough one," he said. "Time will heal everything, but it's a tough one to go through. We were never able to put a lengthy winning streak together. We were very optimistic going into the season. But we weren't able to respond as well as we had hoped."
Among the more telling numbers from the season was a bloated team earned run average of 7.27. The Cougars also committed 117 errors.
"We had deficiencies offensively, defensively and with our pitching," Law said. "We didn't drive in as many runners as I would have liked. We struck out too many times and we had too many errors. We've got to be tougher, more disciplined. The players need to put the team first, ahead of individual performances."
Disappointments aside, there were some memorable moments, including a visit from two-time defending national champion Oregon State. Though BYU lost both games to the Beavers, hosting such a prominent team in Provo created a buzz at Miller Park.
Law's most memorable moment was his team's amazing comeback against Utah in the regular-season finale. Trailing 10-0 after seven innings, the Cougars rallied to score 12 runs in the eighth inning on 11 singles. Ten of those runs were scored before the Utes had recorded an out. BYU ended up winning, 13-10.
"It was indescribable. All of the sudden the hits kept coming," Law said. "I don't know if that will happen again in my career."
The Cougars led the MWC in runs scored, total bases and stolen bases. Sean McNaughton, who recorded a team-high 14 home runs and 22 doubles, was BYU's only selection to the All-MWC first team. Walton, who was among the nation's leaders in triples, was voted to the All- MWC second team.
Looking ahead to next season, Law is confident that BYU can turn things around and contend for a conference championship. The Cougars did not have any seniors on the roster, which means there should be plenty of battle-tested players next season. Walton, McNaughton and shortstop Daniel Vargas are among those who will lead BYU.
Law says his team will benefit from an influx of new recruits, including some highly touted pitchers who figure to make an immediate impact.
"We spent last year upgrading our pitching staff, but we were short on the mound," he said. "We didn't have the depth we needed. Only time will tell if we have the right players. I strongly believe the guys we've brought in will shore up our pitching staff."
Of course, Law added, things could change quickly depending on what happens during this week's Major League Baseball draft.
"It's unsettling," Law said. "I'm anxious to see what happens ... It could impact our team makeup."
As many as four incoming recruits have a chance of being drafted and they may or may not decide to enroll at BYU. Meanwhile, McNaughton, Walton and Vargas could also be drafted."You just never know what could happen," Law said.
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