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BYU Baseball set for strong stretch run

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The Bat Cats are playing their best ball of the season and have a favorable schedule. A WCC title run is within reach.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo

The 2017 season is playing like 2016 in reverse.

In the 2016 BYU Baseball season, the Bat Cats started the year unbelievably hot. The Cougars were 23-3 and flying up the national rankings. A couple of injuries to pitchers, the bats slowed down a bit and the Cougars closed out the 2016 campaign with a 14-14 record.

The Cougars started off this year with a 10-11 culminating in the Cougars surrendering a Perfect Game to Loyola Marymount pitcher Cory Abbott. The first time BYU has ever allowed a perfect game in the history of the program.

Since then, the Brigham Bats are on fire going 12-3 including killing off a program demon. The Cougars were able to not only win their first game at San Diego since joining the West Coast Conference, but win the series against the Toreros 2-1 last weekend.

Looking forward at the next few weeks, there isn’t a good reason to believe that BYU baseball will cool down from their hot play. The Cougars welcome 7th place San Francisco this week in Provo. Go to 9th place Santa Clara the following week. Take on the Portland Pilots at Miller Park. Then close out the season with a huge series at league leading Gonzaga.

Outside of the Gonzaga series, the next 3 weeks are the time that BYU has to feast on their opponents. If they do, they will be in line to win their 2nd straight regular season WCC Championship. Especially when considering the difficult remaining schedule that the other title contenders have down the stretch.

In a totally unscientific way of ranking, I looked at each of the WCC teams remaining schedule. I added up the standings position total (Loyola Marymount/Gonzaga were equal to 1, while Pacific’s value was 10), then adjusted for home and away (+.5 for home series and -/5 for away series). Then divided that total by how many WCC series that team had remaining. The lower the score, the harder the schedule. Here are the results.

WCC Standings

Team Conf W-L Conf % Remaining WCC Schedule Tougest Schedule Rank Games Back WCC Championship Elimination Number (Team L + BYU W)
Team Conf W-L Conf % Remaining WCC Schedule Tougest Schedule Rank Games Back WCC Championship Elimination Number (Team L + BYU W)
BYU 14-4 .778 @ Santa Clara, Portland, @Gonzaga T-6 -- --
Loyola Marymount 16-5 .750 @ Gonzaga, @ Portland T-4 -.5 9
Gonzaga 15-6 .714 Loyola Marymount, BYU 2 .5 8
San Diego 14-7 .667 @ St. Mary's, Pepperdine T-8 1.5 7
Saint Mary's 11-7 .611 San Diego, @ Pepperdine, Santa Clara T-6 3 7
Santa Clara 7-11 .389 BYU, Pacific, @ St. Mary's T-4 7.5 3
San Francisco 7-14 .333 Pepperdine, Pacific 10 8.5 Eliminated
Pepperdine 6-12 .333 @ San Francisco, St. Mary's, @San Diego 3 8 2
Portland 5-14 .263 @ BYU, Loyola Marymount 1 9.5 Eliminated
Pacific 2-17 .105 @ Santa Clara, @ San Francisco T-8 12.5 Eliminated

Among the 5 title contenders, BYU has the easiest road to close out the season. Gonzaga, San Diego, and Loyola Marymount have respectively the 3 most difficult remaining schedules. BYU has played the toughest WCC schedule up to this point having already played series with Loyola Marymount, San Diego, and St. Mary’s. The Y went 6-3 against the top half of the standings.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga has only played 1 team in the top half of the table in San Diego. Plus, the Bulldogs have had schedule luck this season. They get San Diego, BYU, Loyola Marymount, AND St. Mary’s in Spokane. Gonzaga is playing every top team at home!

League leaders Loyola Marymount, Saint Mary’s and San Diego have played 2 title contenders, but will have to 2 more tough series remaining.

With so many head-to-head games coming between teams at the top of the league, there should be a lot of volatility in the league standings down the stretch.

With the Cougars playing opponents out of the hunt, Mike Littlewood’s crew has a huge opportunity to lock down a top 4 spot to qualify for the post-season WCC tournament and put a pressure grip on the WCC title.