In mid-April the BYU baseball program experienced a “really shocking” turn of events.

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

That left longtime assistant Trent Pratt assuming the title of interim head coach. 

BYU players and coaches have responded in remarkable fashion. 

Before the Cougars’ 12-7 nonconference loss to Utah Tuesday night, they had won nine consecutive games, after last weekend’s home sweep of Pacific. They also clinched a berth 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 winning nine straight in 2017. 

During the past two weeks, BYU has catapulted from seventh place to fourth and is jockeying for seeding position for the upcoming WCC tournament in Stockton, California. 

The Cougars entertain fifth-place Loyola Marymount (13-11) for a regular season-ending, three-game series starting Thursday.

For Pratt, taking over for Littlewood, a man he had coached with for more than nine seasons at BYU and six seasons before that at Dixie State, wasn’t easy. Over that span at BYU and Dixie State, Littlewood and Pratt won 443 games together. 

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

Littlewood’s resignation, and Pratt’s ascension to interim head coach, caught everyone off guard. But there was no time for reflection. The Cougars soon departed for a series at Nebraska, where they won three of four games. 

Fortunately for BYU, there was continuity on the staff. Assistant coach Brent Haring has been with the program for eight years.

“It was a little crazy at first. Luckily, most of our staff has been together for a long time. And we have good kids,” Pratt said. “They keep playing hard so that’s made the transition easier. But obviously it was stressful. A little anxiety at first; and still a little bit. But we feel like we’re settling in. Man, we’re playing good baseball now. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

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

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“It was kind of crazy because nobody could have expected that to happen. Especially coming off the Santa Clara series. We swept them and we were all on a high from that,” he said. “Then it was really shocking because nobody knew what was going on. Still, nobody really knows what happened.

“But I think our team answered pretty well, just forgetting about that and playing baseball. Trent has done a great job of making that the main focus and trying to help us move forward from that. I love Trent. It’s been so fun having him as head coach. He brings a cool energy to the team. It’s been good that way. It was crazy. Nobody would have guessed that that would happen, but it did.”

Pratt credits the players for the success since the transition. 

“They’ve been resilient and tough. That’s the biggest thing. That’s what’s made it easier — them,” he said. “They kept playing hard and they’ve responded well. They’re really playing for each other and they’ve pulled together. That’s been the coolest thing to see.”

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

“Just that people are looking at me,” he said when addressing the toughest part about the transition. “There’s more responsibility. Everyone’s helped take on more responsibility, which makes it easier. The roles have changed. When you call the offense, you put on a hit-and-run or a steal, when coach would put it on and it was no big deal. Now, you’re putting it on and it’s like, ‘Man, is this going to work?’ It’s more pressure in those types of things. Other than that, it’s been good.”

BYU interim head 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 have secured a spot in the WCC tourney later this month. | Madeline Mortensen, BYU Photo

McIntyre’s family has a longstanding connection with Pratt and his family. Pratt and McIntyre’s older brother, Drew, were best friends in high school. Pratt ended up recruiting 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 all that well. I actually got to hang out with his family a couple of times but never with Trent,” McIntyre said. “I’ve known about him forever. He was kind of a reason why I came to BYU. He helped me get seen and we built that relationship when 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, so do his teammates — evidenced by the way the Cougars are playing at this crucial time of the season. 

“We’re starting to click again. Our motto has always been, ‘All in.’ Recently, we’ve been doing ‘Together.’ This is probably the closest team that I’ve been able to play on at BYU. We all play for each other,” McIntyre said. “We’re just trying to get on base and trusting that the next guy will drive us in. We’re excited and playing good. We just want to keep playing together as long as we can.

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“Once you put the focus on the team rather than yourself, a lot of good things happen. That’s what we’re doing. I’m excited for the rest of the season. We could be a pretty dangerous team. Not a lot of people expect us to go far but we have a really good shot.”

The Cougars will continue to follow Pratt’s leadership and see where that leads them.

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

“It feels like Little League; I have that kind of excitement again. I’ve always loved baseball but it’s that cool energy Trent brings. He’s done a great job so far. I’m really happy for him. Hopefully we can keep it rolling and keep playing really good baseball. We’re excited.”

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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