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BYU Baseball Preview: Cougars optimistic for 2022

By Staff | Feb 18, 2022

BYU's Cooper Vest (7) is introduced before the start of a game during the 2021 season. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

A promising group of newcomers join a solid core of seasoned players as the 2022 BYU baseball team sets its sights on the West Coast Conference tournament and the NCAA regionals.

Twenty-two players return from the 2021 squad, including Collegiate Baseball News Freshman All-American and WCC Co-Freshman of the Year Andrew Pintar, as well as four other All-WCC honorees that include senior centerfielder Mitch McIntyre, junior right fielder Cole Gambill, junior right-handed pitcher Reid McLaughlin and sophomore righty Carter Smith.

In addition, 17 talented newcomers joined the team in the offseason, including two returned missionaries in right-handed pitchers Ryan Brady and Jake Porter. They are joined by five transfers, including infielders Alex Sardina (UNLV) and Max Harper (Patrick Henry CC), outfielder Dawson Hall (USU Eastern), catcher Chase Peterson (Salt Lake CC) and right-handed pitcher Nate Dahle (Southern Idaho).

“The past couple of years we’ve had a young team, but that’s not the case anymore,” said BYU head coach Mike Littlewood. “We have a lot of pitchers and position players with game experience, as well as some really talented newcomers. It’s a well-rounded team, and they love to compete.”

BYU was picked second in the West Coast Conference preseason coaches poll, receiving one first-place vote. Gonzaga received nine first-place votes and is the favorite to win the league.

BYU Courtesy Photo

BYU's Andrew Pintar spits on his hand in preparation for an at-bat against Saint Mary's at Miller Park on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

On the mound, the Cougars appear to have one of the deepest pitching staffs in program history. Last season BYU posted a team ERA of 4.24 with a young staff that also recorded the best strikeout to walk ratio since 1967 at 2.36 (410-158).

BYU returns all but one starting pitcher from the 2021 season and looks to build on the success of a young staff that went 11-4 in its last 15 outings. Included in the 11 wins was an 8-5 victory over perennial baseball powerhouse Arizona State and series victories over the Cougars’ last four WCC opponents.

Sophomore starter Jack Sterner (3.81, 1-2) and closer McLaughlin (2.04, 3-1, 6 saves) anchor a returning staff that also features right handers Bryce Robison (3.78, 7-2), Ayden Callahan (0.87, 0-0) and Smith (4.17, 2 saves), as well as sophomore lefties Cooper McKeehan (5.68, 2-1), Cy Nielson (7.75, 3-3) and Boston Mabeus (4.71, 2-3).

The returning pitching staff is bolstered by several new faces expected to contribute immediately, including junior transfer Dahle, sophomore return missionary Brady (6.2 innings in 2019) and freshman Janzen Keisel (Gunnison Valley HS). The three new additions, along with Sterner, will make up the early four-man rotation. Others expected to be in the mix right away include sophomore Peyton Cole, who played infield last year before joining the pitching staff in 2022, and freshman Justis Reiser (Bingham HS).

“Our pitching staff is as deep as it’s ever been,” Littlewood said. “We have a lot of guys who sit in the low to mid 90s, with good command of their secondary stuff.”

The BYU dugout watches the action of a game during the 2021 season. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

On offense and in the field, BYU returns freshman All-American infielder Pintar, who led the 2021 Cougars in batting average (.333), hits (63), runs (41), total bases (105), slugging percentage (.556) and was top 10 in WCC play in 10 offensive categories. He is joined by McIntyre, a two-time All-WCC honoree who started all 50 games in 2021. The senior centerfielder hit .318 with 39 RBI, 14 doubles, three triples and four home runs in 2021. Fellow All-WCC honoree Gambill also returns in 2022. The junior leftfielder also played in all 50 games last year, hitting .268 with 13 doubles, 11 home runs and 38 RBI.

Other returning position players with plenty of game experience from the 2021 squad include senior leftfielder Hayden Leatham; juniors Josh Cowden (outfield), Jacob Wilk (infield), Austin Deming (infield) Ryan Sepede (outfield) and Jacob Rogers; as well as sophomores Brock Watkins (infield) and Cooper Vest (outfield).

Two incoming freshmen from Magnolia Heights High School in Mississippi will likely be in the lineup to begin the 2022 season. Collin Reuter, an ABCA/Rawlings High School All-American catcher and teammate Ozzie Pratt, a Perfect Game All-American infielder, joined the Cougars in the fall. Freshman catcher Mason Strong (Snow Canyon HS) could also see time in 2022.

BYU opens the 2022 season at the Snowbird Classic, Feb. 18-21, in Port Charlotte, Florida, with a double header against Marshall and single games versus Ohio State and Indiana State. The Cougars will then play a three-game series at ASU in Phoenix, Arizona, before heading home for back-to-back series with Milwaukee-Wisconsin and No. 7 ranked Oklahoma State in Provo. The home opener is scheduled for Thursday, March 3, at 3 p.m. MT.

BYU BASEBALL

Five Players to Watch

Andrew Pintar, So. Infielder

Freshman All-American in 2021, led team with a .333 batting average

Mitch McIntyre, Sr. Outfielder

BYU's Brock Watkins prepares to throw to first base in a game during the 2021 season. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

Multiple year starter will anchor the outfield

Cole Gambill, Jr. Outfielder

Led Cougars with 11 home runs in 2021

Reid McLaughlin, Jr. Right-handed Pitcher

Had six saves and a team-leading ERA of 2.04 in 25 appearances

Collin Reuter, Fr. Catcher

An ABCA/Rawlings High School All-American in 2021

 

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