The BYU baseball team is on its way to the best record in program history, but that stat may prove empty if it’s achieved without a WCC championship. The Cougars have never won an outright regular season championship, something the team hopes to change as it enters the thick of conference play.
Thus far BYU taken two out of three games from WCC foes Pacific, Loyola Marymount and San Diego in addition to sweeping Portland. Although sitting with only three conference losses, head coach Mike Littlewood feels they let some games slip away.
“We can’t continue to give games away,” Littlewood said. “Those things add up at the end of the season.”
BYU’s offense is ranked second in the nation in both scoring and batting average. The Cougars are averaging nine runs per game and hitting .336 through their first 30 games.
The Cougars have 22 regular season games remaining, 15 of which are conference games. BYU (9-3) is currently tied with Gonzaga (9-3) atop the WCC standings and has a one game lead over second place St. Mary’s (8-4).
The team will play a three-game series against St. Mary’s in Moraga, California starting on Thursday, April 14, and Littlewood acknowledged St. Mary’s ability to win games.
“St. Mary’s is probably the premier team on paper this year in the league,” Littlewood said. “It’s a scary team, especially over there. The hope is that we show up to play and the fear is that we show up flat.”
After St. Mary’s, the Cougars will have a break from conference play until they take on Gonzaga in Provo for a three-game series starting on Thursday, April 28.
Littlewood knows the team will need to stay consistent if it wants to win the conference and remains confident in his team.
“Win every series, that’s the thing we need to do,” Littlewood said. “I think overall the mentality of the team is good. It’s just a professional type attitude with the guys. We’ll show up to play.”
A 25-5 overall record has the Cougars ranked No. 22 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Poll and No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, while still receiving votes for D1Baseball.com’s Top 25.
BYU can thank two members of the team, both contributing in different ways, for their hot start. BYU hopes to continue to ride the production of designated hitter Colton Shaver and starting pitcher Michael Rucker as the Cougars face top-tier WCC competition.
Shaver is currently on pace to finish in the top 10 nationally for season batting average, currently hitting .433, while 7-0 Rucker is looking to break the BYU season record for most strikeouts in a season. Rucker has 56 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched so far this season.