SALT LAKE CITY — There was a lot to like about BYU baseball in 2019, including its first outright conference title in 30 years.
The Cougars had arms, bats and an exquisite fielding percentage all season, leading to multiple all-conference honors at the end of the regular season.
But little of that matters now as they turn their minds to the NCAA Tournament.
All the Cougars can do is wait.
Winning pitcher Mac Lardner held the Cougars to just three hits and one first-inning run, and Gonzaga pulled away for 3-1 win over No. 24 BYU in an elimination game Friday at the West Coast Conference Tournament at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California.
Ernie Take went 2-for-4 with a home run for the Zags (31-23). Lardner improved to 6-4 on the season for Gonzaga, and relief pitcher Alek Jacob picked up his 12th save of the year.
Danny Gelalich went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored for BYU, and Mitch McIntyre was 1-for-3 with a double for the Cougars (36-17).
“Honestly, we needed to play better in the last couple of weeks to make a true statement,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood told BYU Radio after the game. “But we’ll see what happens.”
Easton Walker took just his second loss of the year for BYU — but gave up just six hits and three runs with four strikeouts in six innings. But the Cougars couldn’t get enough offense to back it up; six players went hitless on the day, including a combined 0-for-7 from standouts Brock Hale and Jackson Cluff.
The No. 1 seed is no more!— TheW.tv (@TheWtv) May 24, 2019
Alek Jacob comes on to finish the job and @GonzagaBaseball lives to fight another game.
For just the second time in #WCCchamps history, the top seed has fallen in two games here at Banner Island. pic.twitter.com/XJuqSnIQ5l
“Our 3-4 hitters didn’t show up this tournament, and that’s not what we would’ve thought,” Littlewood admitted. “When Brock and Jackson don’t hit for us, we don’t win. We’ve seen it in the 17 games we’ve lost this year.
“The guys on the bench see hitting as contagious, and if they see those two guys not hitting it, then it’s in the back of their minds. Mitch is the only guy who consistently stepped up and put good swings on the ball.”
BYU will learn its postseason fate Monday. The Cougars put together a historic season with 36 wins, but have lost three of their last five contests, including one at league-worst Santa Clara and the 0-for-2 performance in the WCC Tournament that dropped its RPI into the 40s.
“I told the team we’ll either be happy or we’ll be sad Monday,” Littlewood said. “But I think it’s important to watch the show, live and die on each pick, and hope that somebody on the committee is fighting for us.”