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BYU Baseball to face Loyola Marymount in 1st round of West Coast Conference Tournament

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An automatic berth to the NCAA tournament is the prize this weekend.

Leadoff batter Brennon Anderson is hitting .351 while starting every game for the Bat Cats.
BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey

BYU finished the regular season as West Coast Conference co-Champions for the 2nd season in a row. The title is split 3-ways between Loyola Marymount, Gonzaga, and BYU who all finished the conference schedule with a 20-7 record.

Now, the top-4 teams in the WCC have traveled to Stockton, California to play in the West Coast Conference tournament at Banner Island Ballpark. The tournament set up is double elimination. The prize for winning the weekend is an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament next week.

The stakes for BYU are simple: Win or go home. The Cougars (33-18) don’t have a strong enough RPI or non-conference record to merit an at-large bid. So, if they want to play in a regional they must win the conference tournament.

Unfortunately, BYU pitching staff find themselves in a bit of a crisis heading into the tournament. Head coach Mike Littlewood indicated after last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Gonzaga that of his 12 pitchers that made appearances only Mason Marshall, Jordan Wood, and Keaton Cenatiempo looked ready to play. All 3 of those players came from the bullpen.

Littlewood has yet to name a starter for BYU’s first game in the tournament. Here are the 3 likely candidates.

Maverik Buffo has been the series opening starter all season. Buffo, who is 6-6 with a 6.26 ERA, had a couple of tough outings the last two weeks. Against Gonzaga, Buffo went 3 innings with 9 hits with 4 walks totaling 9 surrendered runs. Against Portland, Buffo only made it through 1 inning giving up 5 hits (3 were home runs), a walk, and 6 earned runs.

Brady Corless (6-0, 5.13 ERA) has been the game 2 starter all season. He has been an up and down starter. Against Gonzaga, Corless pitched 4 innings giving up 7 hits, 5 walks for a total of 4 runs. Things went much better against Portland. Corless threw 7.1 innings, struck out 10, gave up 5 hits, 6 walks for 3 runs.

Hayden Rogers played his way into the game 3 spot early in the season. The lefty has a 7-2 record with a 3.87 ERA. Rogers has been the best starter for the Cougars this season. He too struggled against Gonzaga making it 3.2 innings with 9 hits, a walk for 5 runs. Against the Pilots, Rogers went the more typical 6.1 innings with 5 hits, 2 walks for 3 runs. The only concern with Rogers may be rest. Hayden has pitched every Saturday on a week’s rest for the past couple months. The junior lefty did pitch last Saturday and would be playing on 4 days rest. That seems like it should be fine, but it does signal a disruption to his routine.

My hunch is that Littlewood will start Brady Corless.

Whatever the case is, BYU’s bats will be critical to give run support confidence to a pitching staff that had a nightmarish weekend in Spokane last week.

One thing is for certain, Loyola Marymount does not have questions about their starting pitcher for Thursday night.

West Coast Conference pitcher of the year Cory Abbott (11-1, 1.58 ERA) threw a perfect game while striking out 13 batters against BYU on March 25. While that was Abbott signature performance of the season, he has basically been impossible to solve for opposing batters this season. Abbott had a 43-inning stretch without an earned run and has only allowed 2 earned runs in his last 69.1 innings. In Abbott’s last performance, he struck out 16 hitters in 7 innings against Portland. So, LMU has a real challenge to deal with on the mound.

Tonight’s game will be available for streaming on TheW.tv and the game will start approximately at 8:00 PM MST. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on ESPN 960 AM local in Utah County. The radio stream is reached at espn960sports.com.

Projected BYU Lineup

Vanquish The Foe’s projected starting lineup

Position Player Bats Throws Year Batting Average Home Runs RBI
Position Player Bats Throws Year Batting Average Home Runs RBI
Catcher Bronson Larsen R R Senior .345 12 52
1st Base Tanner Chauncey R R Senior .329 2 34
2nd Base Brennon Anderson R R Junior .356 6 38
3rd Base Nate Favero L R Junior .338 5 41
Shortstop Daniel Schneemann L R Sophomore .310 2 34
Left field Keaton Kringlen R R Sophomore .343 5 52
Center field Kyle Dean R R Freshman .283 6 26
Right field Brock Hale R R Sophomore .380 11 42
Designated Hitter Colton Shaver R R Junior .287 11 37