Baseball begins conference play by sweeping BYU and looks ahead to a tough non-conference opponent Junior Kris Bryant led the Toreros in a sweep of the Cougars in dramatic fashion as the baseball team looks forward to a series against the No. 3 Oregon State Beavers at Fowler Park next week

By Alex Bullock

The USD baseball team played a dramatic three-game series against the Brigham Young University Cougars last weekend in the opening series of West Coast Conference play. The Toreros won all three games against the Cougars, but it wasn’t easy. All three games saw the Toreros trailing late, and two of the three ended with walk-off home runs from junior All-American Kris Bryant.

The three victories improved the Toreros’ record to 14-6 overall and moved them back into the Top 25 poll.

Bryant’s two home runs increased his season total to eight, the highest tally in the nation thus far. The leader of the Toreros’ offense is already closing in on the school’s single-season homerun record after just one third of the season.

Bryant isn’t the only Torero playing well as of late, however. Junior shortstop Chris Woolley was named the WCC Rawlings Player of the Month for February.

The team’s batting average is .313, and the pitching staff’s collective earned run average is 3.00 while holding their opponents to a batting average of .246. Meanwhile, opposing pitchers have had a collective ERA of 5.97.

These three wins against the Cougars to open conference play are important, especially with tough opponents coming up on the schedule for the Toreros.

USD will face the Gonzaga University Bulldogs in a three game series this weekend in Spokane, Wash. The Bulldogs are lead by two preseason all-WCC selections: senior infielder Clayton Eslick, and junior infielder and pitcher Marco Gonzales, the reigning WCC pitcher of the year.

The Bulldogs are 11-6-1 this season, even with Gonzales and Eslick struggling at the plate. Last season, the Toreros won two of three against the Bulldogs in San Diego.

Success within the conference is even more important this year. For the first time, the WCC is implementing a four-team playoff format at a neutral site in order to declare the conference champion. The winner of this tournament will earn the WCC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Baseball Championships.

Even though the tournament does not occur for another two months, every conference game matters in order to ensure a favorable seeding.

After the series against the Bulldogs, the Toreros will face off against both the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and the Cal State Northridge Matadors before a three-game series against the Oregon State University Beavers.

The Rebels made their way into the Top 25 after a 10-game winning streak earlier the season while the Matadors have struggled for most of the season.

The real highlight of the upcoming schedule is the Spring Break series against the Beavers. Coach Pat Casey’s squad is currently ranked No. 3 in the Baseball America College Top 25.

Casey has built one of the strongest programs on the West Coast over the past decade, winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.

Arguably one of the most successful active Division-I head coaches in the country, Casey has established a level of winning unrivaled in the program’s history.

The Beavers are 19-1 heading into a series against the No. 20 Arizona State University Sun Devils this weekend before traveling to San Diego for the clash against the Toreros next week.

The Beavers visited San Diego last season to compete in the USD Tournament. The Toreros dismantled the visitors defeating the Beavers 13-2. Bryant and senior catcher Dillon Haupt each went 3-5 in the game last season and are currently leading the team again in batting average.

The Beavers will certainly test the surging Toreros, but their difficult non-conference matchups will prepare the team for postseason play. Winning against the Beavers will go a long way to help achieve the program’s goal of hosting an NCAA Regional or Super Regional.