Late Home Run Clinches WCC Title for Cougars
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A two-run homer by Abraham Valdez in the ninth inning gave No. 24 BYU baseball the 3-1 win over Santa Clara and clinched at least a share of the West Coast Conference regular season title on Saturday.
"The guys really stepped up today and got it done," BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. "We got a great start from Justin (Sterner) and Abe came up huge. This was an incredibly tough series."
At 36-15 and 19-8 in conference play, the Cougars claim their third WCC regular season title to go with championships in 2016 and 2017. BYU now awaits the results of the Gonzaga and LMU series – should Gonzaga lose Saturday night or Sunday at LMU, BYU will win the WCC title outright and claim the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next week. If the Bulldogs win both games, Gonzaga and BYU will tie in the standings and the Cougars will be the No. 2 seed.
- Abraham Valdez had the game-winning hit on the first home run of his career to break a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth
- Justin Sterner and Reid McLaughlin combined to hold the Broncos to one run while allowing zero walks and collecting eight strikeouts
- The Cougars have now won six of seven series against Santa Clara since beginning WCC play in 2013
- Abraham Valdez: 2-3, HR, 2 R, BB, 2 RBI
- Justin Sterner: 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
- Reid McLaughlin: W (7-1), 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
BYU and Santa Clara exchanged runs in the second inning before bats on both sides fell mostly silent over the next six. But in the top of the ninth, BYU freshman first baseman Austin Deming led off the inning with a single for the Cougars. Two batters later, Valdez launched a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall to put BYU ahead, 3-1.
After closing out the Broncos and earning the save in game two Friday night, freshman Reid McLaughlin came on in relief in the eighth Saturday, striking out two to earn the win. Now at 7-1 with four saves on the year, McLaughlin is the first pitcher in BYU history to win at least seven games and have at least four saves in a single season.
Cougar starter Justin Sterner carried BYU through the first seven innings of the game, allowing just two hits with no walks and six strikeouts on the day.
BYU will next play at the WCC Tournament held at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California. The double elimination tournament begins Thursday, May 23, and will be aired live on TheW.tv, BYU Radio and ESPN960.