Aaron Cornia, BYU
All-American Colton Shaver runs onto the field. He is among the 22 returning lettermen to the 2017 BYU baseball team.

With 22 lettermen returning, prospects are good for BYU's baseball team defending its West Coast Conference title in 2017.

The offense will once again be a strong suite as evidenced by preseason games at Michigan State and a November trip to the Caribbean Island of Curaçao.

Premier among those hitters is junior slugger Colton Shaver, Keaton Kringlen, Brock Hale and senior tri-captain Tanner Chauncey.

All-American Shaver has as much power as anyone in the country and is a home run threat in any situation; he’ll alternate at DH or first base with Chauncey who quite possibly is the Cougars best overall hitter. Kringlen was a freshman All-American for last season’s 37-17 club, and sophomore Hale has cleanup type power.

Add senior tri-captains Bronson Larsen and second baseman Brennon Anderson to that mix for a lineup sure to challenge pitchers.

“We have a lineup full of veteran hitters who are extremely tough outs,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “Over the course of a nine-inning game we will put a lot of pressure on opposing pitching staffs.”

Sophomore Daniel Schneemann will take over at shortstop this year and will more than likely open the season in the leadoff role. Kyle Dean, who started in right field last season before suffering a season-ending injury, will be back in the 2017 lineup.

Brian Hsu, Casey Jacobsen and Nate Favero are all battling for the starting job at third base, and according to Littlewood, Mackay Jacobsen, who returned from a mission last summer, had a good fall and should get some quality time this spring.

“This could be a very special lineup if we have a couple unproven guys step up and have good years for us,” Littlewood said.

Senior right hander Maverik Buffo will take over the No. 1 starter role from departed All-American Mike Rucker. After Buffo, the likely starters are redshirt senior Brady Corless and sophomore lefty Bo Burrup.

“We will be working through January to determine our starting rotation. The nice thing about this staff is we have eight to 10 quality pitchers who have proven they can get outs at this level,” Littlewood said.

The bullpen is led by senior Keaton Cenatiempo and junior lefty Hayden Rogers. Senior Mason Marshall continues his traditional closer role and is just two saves shy of setting the career school record. Left-handed junior college transfer, Aaron Cross, will share closing duties with Marshall.

Along with Cross, newcomers to watch include catcher Dave Clawson, returned missionary Cam Richins as a freshman outfielder, newly-returned missionary Matt Bushman and true freshman Pete Nielsen, an infielder.

Tournaments at Georgia and San Jose State are part of a challenging schedule that includes home games against Oregon and UC Santa Barbara. Littlewood has taken three teams to the WCC Tournament as he heads into his fifth year at BYU.

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