PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – With their backs against the walls, the BYU baseball team suddenly played like champions.
“Four games in 40 hours, it was absolutely incredible,” said head coach Mike Littlewood. “It’s not the way you choose to do it, but looking back, it was really gratifying to be able to do it that way.”
The Cougars won games against St. Mary’s and Loyola Marymount on Friday, then swept Gonzaga on Saturday to win the West Coast Conference Tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“It got to the point where there was no other option, but just to go out and have fun,” said WCC Tournament MVP Bronson Larsen. “I think that kind of got the monkey off our back, just win or go home. It’s in our hands now.”
BYU, which is 6th in the nation in batting average and runs scored, put up 26 in the two wins against Gonzaga, which was pretty amazing seeing how they were just swept by the Bulldogs the previous weekend.
“It’s been amazing,” said Brock Hale, who leads the Cougars with a .399 average. “Just the whole season how we came together, how we went on a hot streak, and what we did throughout conference. Mainly it’s just been awesome being with these guys and the brotherhood that we have.”
“A lot of the guys on the team, they’re also Utah guys,” said former Jordan High star Colton Shaver. “They had the same dream. We grew up watching BYU, Utah and UVU. So it’s cool to be a part of the same team with all these guys and reach this great goal.”
So who do the Cougars have to beat in their first regional since 2002? Two of the blue bloods of college baseball — Cal State Fullerton and Stanford, who have combined to win six national championships.
“It’s still baseball,” said Littlewood. “They’re mature guys, they’re older guys and I don’t think they’re going to be in awe one bit.”
“We’re a dangerous team to play,” added Hale. “A lot of people counted us out in the conference tournament, but I think any team we face, they’re going to have to compete and they’re going to play well to beat us.”
“They’re not that special,” Shaver said of BYU’s opponents. “They’re baseball players just like us. I would take BYU and our players over any of theirs any day.”
The Cougars begin the double-elimination tournament Thursday at 2:00 p.m. against Cal State Fullerton. The winner takes on the winner of the Stanford-Sacramento State game.