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BYU baseball in 1st place following series sweep over San Francisco

With 3 weeks left, 1.5 games separate the WCC’s top 4 teams.

BYU Baseball sophomore short stop Daniel Schneemann celebrating a big hit while rounding the bases.
Daniel Schneemann and the Brigham Bats are leading the way in the West Coast Conference.
BYU Photo/Nate Edwards

A week ago, BYU was in 3rd place in the West Coast Conference. Today, the Bat Cats sit atop the standings following their dominate series sweep over the San Francisco Dons.

On a chilly and windy Thursday, BYU’s hitters overwhelmed San Francisco hurlers before the chalk of the batter box could be scrapped away. The Cougars batted through the order and scored 6 runs in the first inning. With the added confidence of run support, BYU’s game one starting pitcher, Maverik Buffo, cruised through 6.2 innings giving up 2 earned runs while striking out 5 Dons. BYU lead off batter Brennon Anderson had a great day going 4-for-5 with a home run and 3 RBIs. Sophomore outfielder Kyle Dean also went 4-for-5 with a triple and 4 RBIs. All in all, the Cougars recorded 19 hits on their way to a 19 to 6 victory.

Another blustery Provo evening was the setting for Friday Night’s Cougar comeback. Heading into the bottom of the 8th, BYU trailed San Francisco, 5-3. Brock Hale started the rally with a single to right center. Colton Shaver, who hit a 2-run home run in the 2nd inning, singled to left. Senior Bronson Larsen walked to load the bases. Kyle Dean drew bases loaded walk which cut the deficit to 1 run as BYU trailed 5-4. Catcher DC Clawson chopped a ball off the dirt in front of the batter’s box, the ball sailed high in the air right toward the USF pitcher who committed an fielding error. All BYU players were safe including at home. Tie game, 5-5. With the bases still loaded, short stop Daniel Schneemann singled up the middle driving home two Cougars to take the lead, 7-5 BYU. Lastly, 1st baseman Tanner Chauncey added another single to center to score Brennon Anderson to give a security run. BYU would win the game 8-5 after closer Riley Gates came in and shut the down in the top of the 9th — striking out the final two batters.

Saturday afternoon saw a display of power hitting from the West Coast Conference leaders. Brock Hale, Bronson Larsen and Tanner Chauncey slugged home runs as the Cougars comfortably defeated the Dons 11-5. Starting lefty Hayden Rogers gave a solid outing going 5.1 innings with 7 hits and 4 earned runs. The relief pitching really stepped up as Keaton Cenatiempo, Aaron Cross, and Mason Marshall prevented any comeback effort for San Francisco. Cenatiempo, Cross, and Marshall combined for 3.2 innings giving up 3 hits, 1 run, 3 K’s on 2 walks.

The sweep improves the Cougars to 15-3 in their last 18 outings. The hot finish to the season have Mike Littlewood’s squad in the thick of a tightly contested race for the West Coast Conference crown. The top 4 teams in the standings are all separated by a game and a half with 3 weekends left in the regular season.

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

While winning the regular season championship would to wonderful, perhaps more importantly, BYU has a great chance to secure a top 4 spot in the standings. The Top 4 teams qualify for the West Coast Conference tournament held in Stockton, California on May 25-27. The winner of the WCC tournament receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Championships. The Cougars NCAA tournament profile likely has BYU on the bubble. But let’s put that aside for now and take a look at the WCC race for the Top 4.

Race for Top 4 spot (WCC Tournament Berth)

Team Conf. W-L Games Back Elimination # (Team L + San Diego W) Magic Number (Team W + Saint Mary's L)
Team Conf. W-L Games Back Elimination # (Team L + San Diego W) Magic Number (Team W + Saint Mary's L)
1. BYU 14-4 -- -- 7
2. Loyola Marymount 16-5 -- -- 5
3. Gonzaga 15-6 -- -- 6
4. San Diego 14-7 -- -- 7
5. Saint Mary's 11-7 1.5 7 --
6. Santa Clara 7-11 5.5 3 --
T-7. San Francisco 7-14 7 Eliminated --
T-7. Pepperdine 6-12 6.5 2 --
9. Portland 5-14 8 Eliminated --
10. Pacific 2-17 11 Eliminated --

In the past 5 seasons, there hasn’t been a team that had 12 or more conference losses that has qualified for the WCC tournament. Meaning that while Pepperdine is mathematically not eliminated, their post-season hopes are effectively done. BYU travels 6th place Santa Clara this week. BYU has a chance to finish off the Broncos post-season hopes if they were to sweep SCU.

Most importantly, BYU’s path to a top 4 spot comes with any combination of Cougars win and San Diego/St. Mary’s Gaels losses that total 7. San Diego and St. Mary’s play each other in Moraga this week. BYU holds a tiebreaker over both teams. So, really, fans of the Brigham Bats don’t care whether San Diego or St. Mary’s wins that series, but more that one or the other sweeps the series to make the Cougars top 4 magic number shrink at the highest velocity.

The confident and hot-playing BYU baseball team controls their destiny if they can continue their form. This week, BYU take on UVU at Brent Brown Ballpark in Orem on Tuesday before heading to Santa Clara.