BYU baseball: Interim skipper Trent PrattTeam has team on a roll

In mid-April, BYU’s baseball program saw a “really shocking” turn of events.

In the days after the Cougars defeated Santa Clara, coach Mike Littlewood, who had been at the helm for the past decade, abruptly resigned.

With that, longtime assistant Trent Pratt took over the title of interim head coach.

BYU players and coaches have responded remarkably.

Before the Cougars lost 7-12 outside of conference to Utah on Tuesday night, they had won nine straight games after last weekend’s home win against Pacific. They also secured a spot in the West Coast Conference tournament, with the top six teams qualifying.

The nine-game winning streak for BYU (31-19, 14-10) was the longest for the program since nine straight wins in 2017.

In the past two weeks, BYU has rocketed from seventh to fourth place and is battling for the seed position for the upcoming WCC tournament in Stockton, California.

The Cougars host Loyola Marymount (13-11) in fifth place for a three-game regular-season series beginning Thursday.

It wasn’t easy for Pratt taking on Littlewood, a man he’d coached with for more than nine seasons at BYU and six seasons before that at Dixie State. During that span at BYU and Dixie State, Littlewood and Pratt won 443 games combined.

BYU pitcher Cole Peyton delivers a pitch during the game against Dixie State on May 10, 2022 at Miller Park in Provo. The Cougars won 3-2.

Littlewood’s resignation and Pratt’s ascension to interim head coach caught everyone off guard. But there was no time to think. The Cougars soon went on to a series in Nebraska where they won three out of four games.

Luckily for BYU, there was continuity in the workforce. Assistant coach Brent Haring has been with the program for eight years.

“It was a bit crazy at first. Fortunately, most of our employees have been together for a long time. And we have good kids,” Pratt said. “They keep playing hard, that made the transition easier. But of course it was stressful. A little scared at first; and a little more. But we feel like we’re getting used to it. Man, we’re playing good baseball now. We just have to keep going.”

Senior outfielder Mitch McIntyre said Pratt kept the program running smoothly despite the disruptive situation.

“It was kind of crazy because nobody expected it. Especially from the Santa Clara series. We swept them and we were all on top of it,” he said. “Then it was really shocking because nobody knew what was going on. Still, no one really knows what happened.

“But I think our team responded pretty well, just forgot about that and played baseball. Trent has done a great job of making that the focus and trying to help us move away from that. I love Trento It was so much fun having him as the head coach. He brings a cool energy to the team. It was good. it was crazy Nobody thought this would happen, but it did.”

Pratt credits the players for the success since the move.

“They were resilient and tough. That’s the biggest thing. That made it easier — her,” he said. “They kept playing hard and reacting well. They really play for each other and they pulled together. That was the coolest thing I’ve seen.”

While serving on Littlewood’s staff, Pratt had a role behind the scenes. But that has now completely changed.

“Just for people to look at me,” he said of addressing the hardest part of the transition. “There is more responsibility. Everyone has helped take on more responsibility, which makes it easier. The roles have changed. If you call offense, bet on hit-and-run or steal if the coach would put it up and it wasn’t a big deal. Now you put it on and it’s like, “man, is this gonna work?” There’s more pressure in things like that. Otherwise it was good.”

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BYU interim baseball coach Trent Pratt has the Cougars playing solid baseball this spring. Prior to Tuesday night’s loss to Utah, the Cougars had won nine straight games and secured a spot in the WCC tournament later that month.

Madeline Mortensen, BYU photo

McIntyre’s family has a long-standing connection to Pratt and his family. Pratt and McIntyre’s older brother, Drew, were best friends in high school. Pratt eventually recruited McIntyre, a Stansbury Park native, to BYU.

“Trent grew up in Tooele, which is where I grew up. I knew his family, but I didn’t know Trent very well. I’ve actually hung out with his family a few times, but never with Trent,” McIntyre said. “I’ve known him forever. In a way, he was a reason I came to BYU. He helped me be seen and we built that relationship as we started communicating. He’s an exceptional guy and coach. I’m really glad I came for him.”

Not only does McIntyre love playing for Pratt, but his teammates do too — which shows in the way the Cougars are playing at this pivotal time of the season.

“We’re starting to click again. Our motto has always been “All in”. We recently did Together. This is probably the tightest team I’ve played on at BYU. We all play for each other,” McIntyre said. “We’re just trying to get down to base and trust that the next player will push us in. We’re excited and we’re playing well. We just want to play together for as long as possible.

“Once you focus on the team and not on yourself, a lot of good things happen. This is what we do. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. We could be quite a dangerous team. Not many people expect us to go far, but we have a really good chance.”

The Cougars will continue to follow Pratt’s lead and see where that takes them.

“I’ve always loved Littlewood, but his coaching style is very different. Trent brings that energy and he’s a very personable guy that a lot of people can relate to,” McIntyre said. “For that, it’s easier for him to go up to people and tell them to pick it up and not take it in a bad way, but in a motivating way.

“It feels like little league; I’m so excited again. I’ve always loved baseball, but it’s that cool energy that Trent brings to the table. He’s done a great job so far. I’m very happy for him. Hopefully we can keep going and keep playing some really good baseball. Were excited.”

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Fans applaud as they watch a baseball game between BYU and Gonzaga in Provo on Saturday, March 26, 2022.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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