STOCKTON, Calif. — No. 1 seed Gonzaga was eliminated Friday afternoon by No. 3 seed BYU, 8-1, in the West Coast Conference Baseball Tournament.
Not only did BYU (32-20) defeat Gonzaga (32-21-1) in the elimination bracket, the Cougars beat Zag southpaw Tyler Olson (9-4), the WCC Pitcher of the Year who carved them up last month in Spokane, Wash.
“We didn’t want to face Olson in the loser’s bracket,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “As we look back at Saint Mary’s we saw three left-handed starters. We saw a really good left-hander at ASU, and we saw a left-hander yesterday. We’ve seen them. It’s not something new to us. If we would have gone the last three weeks without seeing a left-hander, it probably would have been a different story.”
“Our approach was not to swing at a fastball,” Littlewood said. “We stayed with our game plan and hit his off-speed stuff. Barker and Lengal were lights out. He (Lengal) was 90-93 and very unhittable today.”
Previously ranked Gonzaga ended its season on a seven-game skid. Meanwhile, BYU finished the season on a seven-game win streak, only ended by a 10-inning loss to San Diego Thursday.
Among the defensive gems was Cougar first baseman Brock Whitney, who helped out on both ends of a fourth-inning-ending double play, the first of two for BYU in the game. Third baseman Adam Law bare-handed a relay from left field to zing a Zag at home plate to end the sixth frame.
With BYU behind 1-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, an intentional walk to Whitney was sandwiched between a Brennon Anderson double and four singles which all resulted in runs or RBIs. When the damage was done that inning, catcher Dakota Hernandez stood on second base after belting in the fourth run with his single up the middle.
Hernandez returned behind home plate to guide Barker through his final inning before Lengal slammed the door.
“They (Gonzaga) were pressing a bit on the other side,” Littlewood said. “There is more pressure on the No. 1 seed to win in tournaments because the expectations are there. We talked about not making excuses. We talked about not letting any thoughts come into your mind like ‘hey, we had a great season anyway.’ ”
The Cougars continue play Friday evening in the WCC tourney, facing the loser of the San Francisco-San Diego winner’s bracket game. Survivors advance to Saturday evening’s championship game televised live on ESPNU.
Ralph R. Zobell has worked for BYU Athletic Media Relations in various capacities for over 30 years. You can view his bio at http://byucougars.com/staff/athletics/ralph-zobell or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.