Gonzaga took a 9-0 lead through three innings on Thursday to defeat No. 18 BYU baseball, 10-2, and secure a spot in the upcoming West Coast Conference Tournament.
A victory was all either BYU or Gonzaga needed in the three-game series, but the Cougars are still looking for that elusive win, which would give them a first-ever outright WCC title. The first-place Cougars are 20-5, with the 18-7 Zags moving out of a second-place tie.
"I was proud of the guys for competing for nine innings," BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. "We'll try to forget this one and come back tomorrow and win a championship."
Bulldog Eli Morgan handcuffed BYU with 10 strikeouts, the first eight swinging, none more important than recording his third “K” to end the second inning when the bases were loaded with a 3-0 lead. Morgan threw 130 pitches through 7.2 innings to improve his record to 9-2.
Brock Hale belted a pair of leadoff home runs in the fourth and eighth innings off Morgan, both to left field to provide the Cougars their first two runs of the game.
A great leaping pirouette by BYU shortstop Daniel Schneemann up the middle recorded the first out of the initial inning before that 3-0 lead came later in the frame.
A long, high single by Colton Shaver bounced out of the glove of the left fielder at the wall, preventing Hale from advancing any further than second base in the second inning. Nate Favero drew a two-out walk, but the Cougars left the bases loaded, trailing 3-0 in the second.
Buffo rebounded in the second to put the Bulldogs down in order, ending that frame as he did in the first with a swinging strikeout. Then Buffo surrendered six runs in the third inning and was relieved by Jordan Wood who started the fourth frame, trailing 9-0.
BYU, now 33-16 overall, readies for game two on Friday evening against Gonzaga, now 29-17.
Ralph R. Zobell has worked for BYU Athletic Media Relations in various capacities for over 30 years. You can view his bio at byucougars.com/staff/athletics/ralph-zobell or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.