Cougars left out of NCAA Baseball Tournament
It’ll be a quiet spring for BYU baseball.
The Cougars had high hopes after winning their first outright conference regular season championship in 30 years, but fell flat in the West Coast Conference Tournament and paid the price.
The 64-team NCAA Tournament field was announced Monday morning on ESPNU, and the biggest indication that BYU wouldn’t make it was that during the reveal none of the regionals showed a Thursday start date.
In a three-day regional, the Cougars would have to play in a Thursday-Friday-Saturday format because they don’t compete on Sundays.
BYU finished the season with a 36-17 overall record and an RPI of 46. The Cougars won seven games against Power 5 teams but stumbled down the stretch of the regular season. A loss in the first game of the final WCC series of the season at Santa Clara – with an RPI of 276 out of 299 teams – certainly didn’t help. BYU won two close games against the Broncos to secure the regular season title but losses in the WCC Tournament to Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga – scoring just one run in each game – probably put the final nail in the coffin of the Cougars’ post-season hopes.
BYU was squarely on the bubble entering the weekend. Baseball America listed the Cougars as one of the last four teams in on Saturday but after Sundays other conference tournament finals was one of the last four out. D1Baseball.com predicted BYU would be one of the last five teams in on Sunday.
After the field of 64 was revealed, ESPN listed Houston (31-22 record, 42 RPI), Missouri (34-20-1, 31 RPI), Texas State (36-20, 52 RPI) and UCF (33-23, 47 RPI) as the last four teams out.
Florida State, with an RPI of 50 and a 36-21 record, made the field as a sentimental pick because coach Mike Martin, the all-time winningest coach in Division I history, is retiring. TCU, which finished tied for sixth in the Big 12 with an 11-13 mark, was 32-26 overall and had an RPI of 47 but was a surprise addition to the field of 64.
Before heading to the WCC Tournament, BYU coach Mike Littlewood said he felt like his team had earned its way into the NCAA’s.
“If you look at where our RPI is now and our body of work, I really feel like we’re a regional-type team,” Littlewood said, “but you just never know. I think if we get to the championship game (of the WCC Tournament) we should be in. I think the Sunday play thing comes into play. When it comes down to the last dozen teams, they (the committee) are human beings. It’s not an algorithm, it’s people. If somebody says they don’t want to move their pitching up to Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we’re going to get bumped. That’s just the facts of life. I would think our body of work is proof enough.”
Loyola Marymount was the only WCC team to make the NCAA field of 64. The Lions won the WCC Tournament and will play in the UCLA Regional against Baylor. UCLA is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
BYU last made the NCAA’s in 2017.
Nine Cougar seniors, including WCC Player of the Year Brock Hale, will move on. Other key seniors who are out of eligibility are No. 1 starter Jordan Wood, catcher Noah Hill, infielder Brian Hsu, third baseman Casey Jacobsen, first baseball Keaton Kringlen and pitchers Bo Burrup, Riley Gates and Blake Inouye. Sophomore shortstop Jackson Cluff, who was named to the All-WCC first team, is likely gone as well. Littlewood said Cuff will be chosen in the Major League Baseball draft in early June.