Suddenly, top-seed BYU is hoping history repeats itself.
The Cougars dropped their West Coast Conference Tournament opener to No. 4 Loyola Marymount, 4-1, Thursday at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California.
Two years ago, BYU lost its opening game to LMU, then improbably won four consecutive elimination games to capture the WCC Tournament title and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
For the Cougars to capture another tournament title, they will have to follow the same path in the double-elimination tournament.
On Thursday, LMU pitcher Codie Paiva threw a complete game five-hitter and struck out 11 BYU batters. The Cougars, the outright regular-season WCC champions, scored their only run with two out in the bottom of the ninth.
“He’s got guts. When the going gets tough, he makes better pitches,” BYU assistant coach Brent Haring told the BYU Radio Network about Paiva. “He’s the WCC Pitcher of the Year for a reason. That’s the tough part about our tournament. You can win the league and you get rewarded with having to see the WCC Pitcher of the Year. He’s a warrior. I think they tried to take him out and he wasn’t going out. I thought our guys tried to battle with him, but he was tough today.”
If the Cougars don’t win the tournament, their at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament are tenuous.
LMU improved to 30-23 overall while BYU fell to 36-16.8 comments on this story
The Cougars will face the loser of Thursday’s late game — between No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 3 Saint Mary’s — at 1 p.m. MDT Friday. The winner of that game will play again at 8:30 MDT Friday night.
BYU will send Easton Walker to the mound Friday afternoon in an elimination game.
“He’s been our most reliable guy. He’s going to give us a chance to win,” Haring said. “We’re going to go one game at a time. Tomorrow’s game is the only game that matters. We’ll get through that one and go from there. I feel like we’ve had our backs against the wall a bunch this year. Our guys have always answered the bell. We all expect them to answer the bell and be ready to play.”