Back in full swing

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Thanks to the somewhat warmer weather, UVU students are now able to walk outside on a more regular basis. While the student body is out walking in the late afternoon, they might notice the clang of aluminum which can mean only one thing: It’s time for Wolverine baseball.

The Wolverines bring back eight of the 10 starters from last year, including its top seven in the ferocious lineup that batted a school record .329 in the 2009 crusade.

Senior third baseman/relief pitcher Jace Brinkerhoff will be the biggest bat returning in 2010. In his record-breaking 2009 season Brinkerhoff was named to the First Team Division I All-Independent. He led the Wolverines in hitting, .433, last season; broke a school record with 94 hits in a single season and is now Utah Valley’s all-time hits leader and career average leader.

“We know he’ll hit. Having him everyday in your lineup is awesome to have. He can do so many things; he’s got all the tools,” said UVU’s manager Eric Madsen. “Jace is our cornerstone and he’s proven that over the past four years.”

Leading the cast of underclassman will be sophomore outfielder Billy Burgess, who, last season, played in only 38 games but made his presence felt hitting .381 with eight home runs and 42 runs batted in.

The real question for the Wolverines in 2010 will be the pitching staff that posted a lackluster 8.25 earned run average a season ago and lost its best pitcher, Justin Smith, to the MLB Draft.

“We have some good arms and pitching. Coach Dave (Carter) has done a great job with them but they have to show us what they can do in games,” Madsen said. “We’ve been pleased with their progress but that’s one of the biggest unknowns.”

Last season the Wolverines were a dismal 18-35 on the year but as of March 4 have started the year 4-6.

First losing three straight to the Pac-10’s University of Arizona, the Wolverines turned it around with a four-game sweep over Southern Utah University, where they averaged 16 runs a game. Utah Valley then traveled to Surprise, Arizona for the eighth annual Coca-Cola Classic baseball tournament where it dropped three games to Florida International, Cal Poly and Oregon State.

The Wolverines started their season on the road but will be in the state of Utah for its next 17 games, 15 of which will be at Brent Brown Ballpark.