Brady Corless struck out eight in one of his best outings of the season, but No. 27 LMU ended up a 3-2 victor in the opening round of the WCC Tounrament. (Photo by Kyle Terada/Terada Photo)
STOCKTON, California--No. 27 Loyola Marymount outfielder Niko Decolati accounted all of his team’s runs Thursday in a 3-2 win over BYU baseball in the opening round of the league tournament.
The loss puts the Cougars, now 33-19, in survival mode of the West Coast Conference Tournament with a noon PDT contest on Friday against Saint Mary’s College (37-19), who was defeated earlier Thursday, 11-3, by Gonzaga.
Starter Brady Corless gave BYU a fighting chance in Thursday’s opener, striking out eight Lions in seven innings. While Corless (6-1) was on his game, but got his first loss of the season, the Lions rode the bat of Decolati as BYU could rustle up only three hits on the evening.
“We could tell early that he (Brenton Arriaga) had his best stuff,” BYU coach Mike Littlewood said. “We made adjustments. We just couldn't get that key hit. The two or three balls we did hit hard were right at them.”
LMU took advantage of a Phil Caulfield triple, setting up Decolati’s two-run homer, both wind-aided, in the third inning. Decolati got the game-winning RBI with a single set up by an errant BYU throw earlier in the fifth inning.
The Cougars loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but harvested only one run to pull within a 3-2 margin. That run came when Keaton Kringlen drew the first of four consecutive walks in the frame, the latter pair from reliever Codie Paiva. Paiva earned his fifth save of the season, providing starter Brenton Arriaga with his seventh win after the Cougars popped twice stranding the loaded bases.
BYU got its first run and first two hits of the game in the fourth when leadoff batter Daniel Schneemann drew a walk, advanced in Tanner Chauncey’s single, then later scored on Brock Hale’s single.
In the fifth inning, the game took a twist when LMU coach Jason Gill was ejected from the game after a mound visit following a leadoff walk by Nate Favero with a 2-1 lead.
With no outs in the fifth, Favero was in a predicament when Kyle Dean’s high pop fly wiggled in the wind and landed inches fair beyond the reach of the Lion first baseman. The delay caused Favero to be tardy at second and Dean was safe with a single, but the Cougars ended scoreless in the frame.
BYU escaped a jam in the eighth when reliever Mason Marshall loaded the bases with a walk and a hit batter, then got help from his teammates. Schneemann fired home for the first out of the eighth, then started the inning-ending double play initiated by him at shortstop.
“I'm getting tired of losing this first game of the tournament,” Littlewood said. “If they (BYU players) come out and don't believe they can win tomorrow, they're done. I think they understand it, but we've got to turn things around in 12 hours. Hayden Rogers (7-2, 3.87) will start for us tomorrow (Friday vs. Saint Mary’s). He's been our second-best guy and we'll throw him out there and hope he can do what Brady (Corless) did.”
LMU (38-16) advances to play Gonzaga (29-17) at 3:30 p.m. PDT. The winner of the BYU-Saint Mary’s game will play the loser of the LMU-Gonzaga game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PDT.