Last week, Gonzaga won a share of the West Coast Conference baseball title by snatching it away from BYU.
On Saturday, the Cougars exacted some payback, defeating the Zags 10-3 and 16-3 in back-to-back games to win the WCC Tournament in Stockton, California.
With the win, BYU secured the WCC’s guaranteed berth to the NCAA Tournament, ending a 15-year drought for the program.
That means the Zags will find out their NCAA Tournament fate at 9 a.m. Monday during the NCAA Baseball Championship Selection Special that will be televised on ESPN 2.
GU’s resume is impressive for a midmajor team. The Zags boast a 10-5 record against ranked foes. Last year, GU made the field as an at-large selection after falling to Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament championship.
Top-seeded GU would have captured the tournament title with a win in either game on Saturday. But the Cougars quickly overpowered the Zags in the first game and continued that momentum in the deciding game Saturday evening at Banner Island Ballpark.
GU starting pitcher Daniel Bies lasted just two innings in the first game and gave up nine runs, eight earned. Tanner Chauncey and Bronson Larsen belted three-run homers in the first and fourth innings, respectively.
The Bulldogs’ Mac Lardner came in to give up just one run over six frames, but the GU offense could not dig out of that deep hole.
GU’s offense seemed to find some rhythm in the second game, taking a 1-0 lead after one inning. But BYU plated three runners in the second and had jumped out to a 10-3 lead by the time the Zags scored again.
Every hitter in the BYU lineup drove in at least one run and scored at least once in the second game. BYU ranks No. 5 nationally in batting average and runs scored.
The Zags (33-20) claimed a share of the WCC regular-season title, winning the conference in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1980-81 season. To do so, GU had to win five of its final six WCC games and sweep league-leading BYU (37-19) in the final series of the season. The Zags outscored the Cougars 28-6 during that series.
That thrilling finish earned Mark Machtolf his third WCC Coach of the Year Award. Six Zags earned all-conference honors.
The top-seeded Bulldogs cruised to the WCC title game, beating Saint Mary’s 11-3 in the tournament opener on Thursday and winning a pitchers’ duel against second-seeded Loyola Marymount and WCC Pitcher of the Year Cory Abbott 3-1 on Friday.
The Cougars took a more circuitous route to the championship, losing to LMU on Thursday and needing to win two games on Friday. BYU beat Saint Mary’s 8-4 in the early-afternoon game and then won a rematch with LMU, 5-4 in the nightcap.
The NCAA Division I baseball tournament begins on Friday. Teams are divided into 16 regionals consisting of four teams, with each regional conducting a double-elimination tournament.
The regional champions then face off in the best-of-3 Super Regionals.
The 64-team tournament concludes every year in Omaha, Nebraska, with the eight-team College World Series, which this year begins on June 17. GU hopes to be one of the 33 teams that will receive an at-large selection.
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