Zags deny BYU baseball outright WCC title

Ari Davis
Junior Colton Shaver hits the ball in the game against UVU. (Ari Davis)

No. 18 BYU needed one win against Gonzaga this weekend to secure an outright-West Coast Conference championship, but was denied the title as the Bulldogs swept the Cougars in three games.

In the first game of the series which started Thursday night, the Bulldogs took a 9-0 lead after the first three innings and closed out the game winning 10-2.

“I was proud of the guys for competing for nine innings,” said Coach Mike Littlewood.

Bulldog Eli Morgan handcuffed BYU with 10 strikeouts, including one to end the second inning with the bases loaded.

BYU pitcher Maverik Buffo rebounded in the second to put the Bulldogs down in order. However, in the third inning, Buffo surrendered six runs and was relieved by Jordan Wood who started the fourth inning, trailing 9-0.

Sophomore Brock Hale scored BYU’s only two runs of the game.

The Bulldogs added an additional run before the end of the game to seal the win at 10-2.

In game two, the Cougars got off to a better start and lead for the first four innings before the Bulldogs pulled an incredible comeback to win 10-4.

“One nightmare inning cost us big tonight,” Littlewood said.

Bronson Larsen’s sacrifice fly scored Keaton Kringlen for BYU’s first run of the game in the second inning.

Nate Favero hit a home run to right field after Larsen’s out for an early 3-0 lead at the end of the second.

That lead expanded to 4-0 when Brennon Anderson hit a leadoff double to left field in the fourth inning and later scored on Kringlen’s single to right field.

Left fielder Larsen and shortstop Daniel Schneemann combined to throw out a Bulldog runner at home to protect a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning.

In a disastrous fifth inning for BYU, Gonzaga brought home eight consecutive runs before the Cougar defense ended the inning.  The Zags went on to win 10-4.

Gonzaga started out strong in game three, going up 3-0 on a two-run home run in the third inning.

In the fourth inning, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 4-0. The best BYU could muster was a pair of singles in the third and fourth innings by Larsen and Kringlen.

Anderson got on base for the 25th game in a row with an infield single to lead off the sixth inning, which turned into BYU’s first run of the game when Kringlen hit a one-out double to the left-center wall.

Hale beat out a throw to first to load the bases after the first baseman dropped the ball. Colton Shaver’s single dropped into no man’s land to bring home Schneemann and cut the margin to 5-2.

Both Anderson and Tanner Chauncey hit singles in the sixth inning but were left stranded at second and third, and Gonzaga went on to win the game 6-2.

The Cougars closed out their season 33-18 while the Bulldogs finished at 31-17.

With these three conference wins, Gonzaga tied BYU’s 20-7 conference record to share the regular season conference title and earned themselves a spot in the WCC tournament.

Loyola Marymount also finished at 20-7 to share the regular season title.

The Cougars fell to the No. 3 seed for the WCC tournament after the weekend, losing head-to-head tiebreakers with Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount.

BYU will play on Thursday in the opening round in Stockton, California, at 7 p.m. PDT.

The WCC tournament is a double-elimination bracket. The winner of the BYU versus LMU game will face the winner of the No. 1 Gonzaga versus No. 4 Saint Mary’s game on Friday.

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