Gonzaga and BYU chase WCC regular-season title again
It’s become a regular occurrence since Mike Littlewood was named BYU’s head coach in 2012.
The Cougars put themselves in a position to claim at least a share of the West Coast Conference regular-season crown heading into the final weekend.
Preseason conference favorite Gonzaga, the 2018 WCC Tournament champion, is often in the same boat.
Gonzaga or BYU – perhaps both – will earn the 2019 regular-season WCC title. They shared the throne in 2016 and 2017.
They’re ultimately fighting for the No. 1 seed to next week’s WCC Tournament in Stockton, California.
League-leading BYU (17-7 WCC) holds a one-game lead over second-place Gonzaga (16-8) heading into their final series, both on the road beginning Friday.
Third-place Saint Mary’s (15-9) could also jam up the standings with a little help.
The Cougars travel to last-place Santa Clara (4-20) for three games, looking to earn their third WCC title in four years.
Gonzaga, which won its series against BYU in March, has a more arduous task.
The Bulldogs make the trek to fourth-place Loyola Marymount (14-10), a team that was recently in the thick of the WCC title race before dropping three of its last four.
Nick Trogrlic-Iverson (3-2, 5.10 ERA) will start on the hill Friday for Gonzaga, followed by lefties Mac Lardner (5-3, 4.94) and Justin Blatner (2-3, 5.29) on Saturday and Sunday.
If BYU sweeps Santa Clara, which has dropped five straight and eight of its last nine outings, it clinches the outright title.
The Cougars’ pitching staff has a combined earned-run average of 3.66, the best since 1982, according to the school.
At LMU, Gonzaga will look to its four-man hitting crew of Troy Johnson (.338), Nick Nyquist (.327), Guthrie Morrison (.320) and Ernie Yake (.304).
Johnson is a double shy of the tying Gonzaga’s single-season record (27).
Yake wants to hoist both WCC regular-season and tournament titles this season.
“Coach (Mark Machtolf) has said if we stick to the right mindset, be positive and let our failures turn to success in the end,” Yake said, “we can get hot at the right time.”