PROVO — BYU pitcher Justin Sterner is turning pro.

The right-hander from Laguna Niguel, California, signed a free agent contract with the Miami Marlins Thursday.

“I have so many people to thank especially my family and coaches at BYU for giving me a chance to prove what I can do,” Sterner wrote on a social media account. “I’m so grateful for my time at BYU. I’m so excited I get to keep playing the game that I love.”

Sterner ranks No. 4 all-time at BYU with a career earned run average of 2.86. That’s the best ERA recorded by a Cougar pitcher since Mike Tucker, who had a 2.60 ERA from 1976-78. Sterner also ranks No. 9 at BYU with a 9.21 strikeout per nine innings average and a 1.31 WHIP.

“I couldn’t be happier that Justin has this opportunity,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said in a statement. “He’s been a great leader for us the past few years and the anchor of our staff. He’s done nothing but get better and better every day and I know he’ll be great at the next level.”

The organization with which Sterner signed has been rocked this week with the news of 18 COVID-19 cases among its players, forcing the postponement of games.

In his coronavirus-shorted junior season in 2020, Sterner posted a 2.53 ERA and 24 strikeouts in four starts. In 2019, Sterner led the Cougars with an 8-3 record, a 2.92 ERA and 71 strikeouts.

Sterner is the second BYU player to sign a free agent contract. Pitcher Jarod Lessar signed a deal with the New York Yankees in June.