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BYU baseball eyes WCC championship; will face Utah, Santa Clara in final week of season

BYU can win the WCC championship this week if results go their way.

Michael Rucker is a nation's best 10-0 this season.
Michael Rucker is a nation's best 10-0 this season.
Keith Shirts/Vanquish The Foe

The Brigham Bats are in the final stages of the season. It has been a successful campaign, as the Cougars record is 34-14 overall, and 15-9 in WCC play.

Last Saturday, the BYU defeated San Francisco, 9-3. The win was significant as it gave not only a series win over the Dons, but secured a Top 4 spot in the WCC standings. Clinching that position promises the Cougars a spot to compete in Stockton, CA over May 26-28 in the WCC Championship. The winner of the tournament is awarded an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Take a look at the WCC baseball standings.

Team Conference Record Conference Win % Games Back Overall Record Overall Win % Last 10 Streak
Gonzaga 16-8 0.667 - 30-15 0.667 8-2 W 5
BYU 15-9 0.625 1 34-14 0.708 6-4 W 2
St. Mary's 15-9 0.625 1 27-22 0.551 4-6 W 1
Pepperdine 14-10 0.583 2 25-21 0.543 7-3 L 1
San Francisco 14-13 0.519 3.5 20-33 0.377 3-7 L 2
San Diego 12-12 0.500 4 25-27 0.481 5-5 W 1
Loyola Marymount 13-14 0.481 4.5 26-26 0.500 4-6 L 3
Pacific 11-13 0.458 5 20-28 0.417 5-5 L 1
Santa Clara 10-14 0.417 6 23-26 0.469 4-6 W 3
Portland 3-21 0.125 13 17-32 0.347 4-6 L 3

Joining the Cougars in the WCC tournament will be Gonzaga and St. Mary's. (While it is possible for a 3- or 4-way tie at 15-wins, both St. Mary's and BYU have the tiebreaker advantages that have secured their spot in Stockton. This is based upon other WCC sports tiebreaker procedures which are as follows: 1. Head-to-head record. 2. Record against higher ranked team. 3. Higher RPI. Vanquish The Foe attempted to reach out to the West Coast Conference for their official baseball tiebreakers, but received no correspondence.)

The 4th team in the competition is to be worked out this week. Pepperdine is likely to emerge, but San Diego and Pacific are technically still alive. Here are the playoff scenarios for each team in the sidebar on the right.

With qualification for the WCC tournament behind them, the Cougars have an opportunity to win the WCC regular season championship this week. They will have to do so short ANOTHER starting pitching arm.

In his appearance on Saturday, starting lefty Hayden Rogers had to leave the game early due to back spasms. This is the 4th BYU starting pitcher to go down with an injury. The Cougars possibly have to go without 4 of their top 5 starters. At this point, being the drummer for Spinal Tap is less hazardous to your health than being a starting pitcher at BYU.

The report on Rogers condition is that he won't be available to Coach Mike Littlewood during this week's game against Utah and series against Santa Clara. The team will monitor Rogers injury, perhaps he may be able to pitch in the WCC tournament.

Lefty sophomore Riley Gates has been able to give the Cougars a nice start during his 3 games he has been handed to ball in the 1st. Against Pepperdine, Gates worked a no-hitter into the 6th. The pitch movement on Gates off-speed throws is absolutely wicked. If he can find the zone, Gates is one of the most difficult BYU pitchers to hit the ball hard off of. Gates leads all Y arms in opposing batting average giving up just .181 to the batters he has faced. He has only given up 4 doubles and a home run all season. Gates has struck out 33 batters. But again, with Gates, it is about finding the zone. He has given up more walks (20) than hits (18) this year. He leads the team in wild pitches (14). He has hit 6 batters with pitches.

Right-handed freshman Easton Walker is being tabbed for the start on Tuesday against Utah. It'll be Walker's first start as a Cougars. Walker is different than Gates. Easton has control, but doesn't surprise batters with power or pitch movement. The ball is going to be in the right spot. I don't expect Walker to pitch many innings on Tuesday, as Coach Littlewood likes to play the midweek, one-off games by committee, but it is possible that Walker will be handed the ball on Saturday.

The Cougar bats will once again need to give plenty of run support. 2B Brennon Anderson is swinging a hot bat at the moment. Anderson was honored as the WCC Player of the Week last week for his efforts at San Francisco. He hit. 538 at the plate including a pair of 2-run home runs to help BYU gain the series win against the Dons.

This week's games are important for BYU. First of all, there is a chance to boost their RPI with a win at Utah. Secondly, the Cougars could find their way into a WCC championship if results pan out.

Here are the BYU wins the WCC championship and #1 seed scenarios for this weekend:

If BYU win all 3 games against Santa Clara, the Cougars would need Gonzaga AND St. Mary's to go 2-1 or worse.

If BYU win 2 games against Santa Clara, the Cougars would need Gonzaga AND St. Mary's to go 1-2 or worse AND St. Mary's to play 1-2 or worse, AND Pepperdine to go 2-1 or worse.

If BYU win 1 game against Santa Clara, the Cougars would need Gonzaga AND St. Mary's to be swept in their series, AND Pepperdine to go 1-2 or worse.

In each of those scenarios, BYU would be the #1 seed in Stockton and claim at least a share of the title. It is possible that BYU could get a share of the title, but not be the #1 seed. BYU doesn't not have the head-to-head tiebreaker against either Pepperdine or St. Mary's, but do hold the advantage over Gonzaga.

Tuesday night's game against Utah will be played at Smith's Ballpark in Salt Lake City. The game will start at 7:00 PM MST. The television broadcast of the contest will be on the Pac 12 Network. The game will also be called on the airwaves on ESPN 960 AM and BYU Radio Sirius XM 143.

Thursday and Friday night's game against Santa Clara will be played at Larry H. Miller field on the campus of BYU. The games will start at 6:00 PM MST. Both games will be televised on BYUtv and broadcasted on ESPN 960 AM and BYU Radio Sirius XM 143.

Saturday night's game against Santa Clara will be played at Larry H. Miller field. The game will start at 6:00 PM MST. This game will be NATIONALLY TELEVISED on ESPNU. This first time BYU Baseball will play in front of a nationally televised audience on a ESPN network. The game will also be carried on ESPN 960 AM and BYU Radio Sirius XM 143.

Projected starting lineup:

Position Name Year Bats Throws Home Runs Runs Batted In Batting Average
Catcher Bronson Larsen Junior Right Right 7 41 .297
1st Base Colton Shaver Sophomore Right Right 10 54 .343
2nd Base Brennon Anderson Sophomore Right Right 5 39 .341
3rd Base Daniel Schneemann Freshman Left Right 0 9 .345
Shortstop Hayden Nielsen Senior Right Right 2 43 .293
Left Field Eric Urry Senior Left Left 7 50 .295
Center Field Brennon Lund Junior Left Right 2 31 .389
Right Field Keaton Kringlen Freshman Right Right 4 29 .357
Designated Hitter Tanner Chauncey Junior Right Right 1 26 .359

Projected BYU starting pitchers:

Game Opponent Name Hand Record ERA Year
Tuesday, May 17, 7:00 PM MST Utah Easton Walker Right 1-0 3.38 Freshman
Thursday, May 19, 6:00 PM MST Santa Clara Michael Rucker Right 10-0 2.78 Junior
Friday, May 20, 6:00 PM MST Santa Clara Riley Gates Left 2-1 4.61 Sophomore
Saturday, May 21, 6:00 PM MST Santa Clara Easton Walker Right 1-0 3.38 Freshman