Split Leaves Lions Out of 1st Place, Hoping for NCAAs

Times Staff Writer

There’s still a tomorrow for the Loyola Marymount baseball team, though the Lions were eliminated from winning the West Coast Athletic Conference title on Saturday.

Now the Lions are playing for pride--and a berth in the NCAA regionals.

Lion pride reemerged in the second game of Saturday’s double-header at Loyola after Pepperdine had blasted the Lions, 10-2, in the opener to clinch the WCAC title.


Loyola came back to win the second game, 9-3, and keep their playoff hopes alive.

The teams conclude their four-game series and the regular season at 1 p.m. today at Loyola. The Lions will throw ace left-hander Steve Surico (10-2) against the Waves’ Pat Dubar (1-5).

A victory today would give the Lions 46 for the season, among the highest totals in the country, although the Lions may finish third in the WCAC, depending on how surging Santa Clara fares against the University of San Francisco. A double-header in San Francisco was rained out Saturday.

“What we’ve got to do is everything we can . . . for a good record,” said Lions Coach Dave Snow. “We’re gonna finish second or third. . . . we’ve got to try to get as good a record as we can.”

After losing big in Friday’s opener, 11-4, Loyola again fell behind early in Saturday’s first game.

The Lions trailed, 10-0, before they got on the board in the sixth inning. By then, it was clear Pepperdine was going to cop its fourth straight WCAC title, as freshman Dennis Burbank improved his record to 10-1 with a complete game five-hitter.

The Waves pounded Mike Jones and Kalani Bush for 17 hits, including back-to-back home runs by Matt Howard and Scott Shockey in the sixth inning. Shockey had four hits on the day.

Burbank’s victory gave the Waves consecutive complete games. It also gave the Waves an 11-game conference winning streak.

Snow’s reaction to the loss--Loyola’s sixth in the last eight conference games--was predictable: “(Bleep), yes, I’m disappointed.”

But he was pleased his team came back with fire in the second game on Saturday. It was the first game that was worthy of the Loyola-Pepperdine rivalry, featuring home runs on both sides, some great defensive plays, several close calls at the plate and a lively argument that ended with one player ejected.

“We did a good job, mentally, of shaking off the first two games,” Snow noted.

Loyola took its first lead of the series, scoring twice in the first inning as Carl Fraticelli led off with a triple and scored on Kirk Mears’ sacrifice fly. The throw from right field beat Fraticelli to the plate, but he knocked the ball loose in a collision with the catcher. That seemed to set the pattern for the game.

With two outs, Don Sparks got an infield single--a close play that Pepperdine disputed--and Miah Bradbury reached base on an errant throw from third.

Umpires awarded Bradbury second base on an interference call, and when second baseman Howard protested, he was banished. Meanwhile, Sparks scored.

Pepperdine struck for all its runs in the second inning, getting five of its seven hits, including a three-run homer from outfielder Richard Barnwell.

Loyola right-hander Scott Neill (5-3) went the distance, and was only in trouble again in the sixth, when he left two runners on.

The Lions scored twice more in the fourth to take the lead for good, then knocked out starter Britt Craven (5-3) in the fifth, sending eight men to the plate and scoring four times. Bradbury knocked in two of the runs with a high chopper over short, then scored on a single by Greg Wall, just beating a throw to home.

The victory raised Loyola’s record to 45-16 overall, 17-6 in the WCAC. Pepperdine is 19-3-1 in the conference but 34-21-1 overall. Santa Clara has 39 victories and is 15-4-1 in the WCAC, in second place ahead of Loyola by percentage points.

Snow said 46 victories and a split with Pepperdine “should get you in the NCAA tournament. And we’ve played the toughest schedule of any team in our conference.”

NCAA pairings will be announced May 23.

Several Lions will be trying to add to personal records today as well as to the win total. Sparks had a two-run homer in the first game Saturday and three hits in the second, setting a Loyola season record for hits with 96.

And Fraticelli, who had three hits and scored three runs in the second game, played in his 226th Loyola game, a career record.