Stranding runners became a problem for BYU until the final out.

That was created when the Cougars tried to force the issue, and came up short. They tried for a stolen second base while down by a run with two outs in the ninth inning.

Gonzaga's middle infielder caught a one-hop throw from the catcher to complete a 4-3 outcome at Miller Field.

It may very well go down as the loss that not only snapped the Cougars' four-game winning streak, but also ended any possibility of sneaking into the West Coast Conference postseason.

The league takes the top four teams and, despite being seventh of 10, BYU entered Friday night in a reasonable late-season position (8-11) compared to a 12-9 mark -- a fourth-place tie between San Diego and Pacific.

Mike Littlewood's second season in charge of a rebuilding project may have just had a few bricks taken away with a tough defeat that included 16 hits but 14 runners left on base.

"We left a lot out there, I felt. (Thursday night) we got the key hits; key hits with two outs. This time ... it was just a weird feel tonight," Littlewood said. "But more than anything, a lot of emotions, frustration. Just pure disappointment for me in a game we needed to win."

It was there for the taking, especially late.

BYU's shots included a runner left at second base despite a two-out double in the eighth, plus two Cougars who made it to third base but were recorded as outs before finishing the final 90 feet in the seventh.

The play of the game may have come in the ninth, though, by Gonzaga's rightfielder.

BYU had a runner on first base after Jarrett Jarvis' one-out base hit. Trace Hansen sent a hard, low line drive to the outfield, but Payden Lamb made a diving catch. LIttlewood hoped the backspin on the hit could disappear, or that the Bulldog would somehow lose it in the lights.

Had Lamb not gotten a glove on the ball, at the very least, the Cougars would have scored one, and at the most, BYU may have strolled around the bases for a two-run inside-the-park home run, and the win.

"It was just kind of the theme of the night. We just couldn't push a run across," said Brock Whitney, whose exemplary night also hinted to the Cougar's scoring struggles.

The slugging first baseman (and BYU's clean-up hitter) went 4-of-5 with a double but had just one run scored and none batted in. Whitney's at-bats didn't leave any runners on base to end an inning. But the three batters above him in the order combined for a 4-of-15 showing with seven stranded runners.

BYU tied the score at two in the fifth on Bret Lopez's RBI single, but Gonzaga scored a pair in the seventh on a couple of singles (GU, for what it's worth, left nine runners on base and had six fewer hits).

Whitney led off the seventh with a single and scored when the next batter, Kelton Caldwell, hit a double.

But Gonzaga brought in the first of two unorthodox side-winding pitchers that kept the Cougars off balanced (three hits during the final three innings).

Lopez's single left runners on the corners, but Jarvis' fielder's choice led to an out at home plate after Caldwell was stuck in a rundown.

Hansen was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but a grounder to first base recorded an out at home plate. A flyout ended the threat, still down a run.

Whitney’s double in the eighth didn’t lead to a tie game.

The game ended when pinch runner Andy Isom -- arguably the Cougars' fastest player on the bench -- and Littlewood couldn't connect on a steal signal for a few pitches.

Isom took off on an 0-2 pitch, after connecting with his coach, but Littlewood didn't get the Gonzaga pitch he was expecting on what was basically a “coin flip” decision for him whether to try and get a runner into scoring position.. It wasn't wasted (high and away, or in the dirt, despite being so far ahead in the count) and Isom was out by an eyelash after a hard slide.

The finish to the three-game series is at 1 p.m. torday.

Littlewood's team must win 2-of-3 against third-place Gonzaga (19-25, 14-9) to have any hope of the WCC tournament. He figures the Cougars need six wins (three-game series remain with Portland and Santa Clara, which are out of the running for playoff spots right now) to have any shot of getting into the top four of the standings.

The coach confessed it won't be easy, and a rough start to league play for a team that's 18-26 overall is packing on some pressure right now.

"They're figuring out how to play together. What it takes," said Littlewood, after some times this year of being quite critical. "They've got a little bit of moxie the last 3 1/2 weeks. I think we were playing with a lot of anxiety early, just unsure of ourselves. But it's kind of a patchwork -- a lot of new guys. But I love the mentality right now."

Even after having trouble scoring with the bases loaded, Littlewood can see some positive light.

"Two months ago, if we had bases loaded and no outs, we would almost expect to hit into a triple play. Now, we're expecting to do good things, instead of expecting to have negative things happen to us," he said.