Hope turned into reality for Loyola Marymount University’s baseball team, which salvaged the middle game of its series with Gonzaga to gain entry to the West Coast Conference Championships in Stockton.
Going into the weekend, the Lions were in fourth place, three games behind conference leader BYU and trailing Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. LMU lost the May 17 opener to the Bulldogs 1-0, despite six-hit pitching from Codie Paiva, but recovered the next day for an 8-1
triumph, paced by Josh Agnew’s complete game seven-hitter, and Cooper Uhl’s three hits including a triple and homerun.
LMU lost the series finale 4-1, although Trevin Esquerra slugged his team-high 15th homerun, driving in his club-best 53rd. The loss left the Lions 29-23 overall, 15-12 in WCC play.
But because the Lions owned the tiebreaker against San Francisco, they advanced to the WCC Tournament, drawing the opening game May 23, 3 p.m. against conference champ BYU. Gonzaga and St. Mary’s are the other teams in the “top four” tournament that helps decide a WCC representative for the NCAA Playoffs.
Earlier last week, LMU scored nine runs in the final two innings to defeat Cal State Bakersfield 15-9, with Ryan Kawano’s two-run single in a four-run eighth giving the Lions the lead for good, and Brandon Shearer collecting four hits and three RBIs to lead a 16-hit attack. The next day, the Lions dropped a 3-2 home decision to USC.
LMU players earned two major post-season awards: Codie Paiva, WCC Pitcher of the Year, and Nick Sogard, WCC Defensive Player of the Year.
Paiva is the sixth Lion to collect WCC Pitcher of the Year honors and the first since All-American Cory Abbott in 2017. The senior from Hawaii led the WCC in ERA (1.40), and opposing batters hit just .218 against him.
Sogard committed just one error en route to a sparkling .990 fielding percentage and helped turn 12 double plays, and batted .321. The junior is the fourth LMU player to earn top defensive accolades; Cooper Uhl accomplished the feat last season.
Both Paiva and Sogard made the All-WCC first team, while junior infielder Trevin Esquerra and sophomore pitcher Nick Frasso made the second team.
Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News).
Start your day with Always Forward, our award-winning e-newsletter. Get this smart, handpicked selection of the day’s top news, analysis, and opinion, delivered to your inbox. Sign up absolutely free today!