Call it the Snow-ball effect.
Few people in the college baseball community doubted that Dave Snow would improve the Cal State Long Beach baseball program when he left Loyola Marymount last June.
No one, however, including Snow, believed the transformation would occur so quickly.
Long Beach, which was 15-45 last season under former Coach John Gonsalves, is 22-3 and ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, in this week’s Collegiate Baseball-ESPN and Baseball America polls.
The 49ers’ only losses came against Arizona State (twice) and Loyola.
“We’ve gone beyond even my expectations,” Snow said. “But anytime you play, you’ve got an opportunity and, basically, we’ve just capitalized.”
Snow, 38, has a history of engineering turnarounds.
After playing for Augie Garrido at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and serving as an assistant under Garrido at Cal State Fullerton from 1973-77, Snow took over a beleaguered program at Valley College in 1978 and won four Metropolitan Conference titles and a state community college championship in 1982.
Snow returned to Fullerton as an assistant in 1983, then replaced Marv Wood at Loyola in the summer of 1984 after the Lions endured an 11-41 season.
In 1986, Snow led Loyola to a 50-15 record, a share of the West Coast Athletic Conference title and into the College World Series. Last season, Loyola was 48-18, losing to Oklahoma State in the Midwest Regional.
“Because of the experiences I’ve had at other places, I had a pretty good game plan when I came in here,” said Snow, who compiled a 161-81-1 record in four seasons at Loyola. “I’m just fortunate that in June there were still some pretty good players out there.”
Kyle Abbott, a junior left-hander who played at Mission Viejo High and transferred to Long Beach from UC San Diego, is 7-0 with a 1.82 earned-run average and has 45 strikeouts in 50 innings. Abbott leads a staff that has compiled a 2.59 ERA under pitching coach Wally Kincaid, who retired as a head coach in 1980 with a record of 675-162 in 22 seasons at Cerritos College.
Center fielder Darrell Sherman, a junior transfer from Cerritos, is batting .425 with one home run, 20 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases. Deryk Hudson, a junior third baseman-designated hitter from Fullerton College, is batting .292 with a team leading five home runs and 29 RBIs.
The 49ers are also getting production from returning players such as senior second baseman Chris Gill, who is batting .387 with one home run and 19 RBIs.
“Overall, they’ve been a pretty hungry group,” Snow said of his players. “They wanted to put this place on the map.”
Long Beach does not open play in the Big West Conference until March 31 but there will be no surprise element going for the 49ers.
“We’ve got an identity now,” Snow said. “They’re going to be loaded up and ready for us.”
A cut above: USC pitcher Randy Powers almost lost part of the ring finger on his right hand in a construction accident last summer. But Powers, a junior right-hander from Azusa, doesn’t seem to have lost his control.
Powers allowed three hits, had seven strikeouts and did not walk a batter in shutting out UCLA, 6-0, last Friday night in a Pacific 10 Southern Division game. The victory improved Powers’ record to 5-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.15. He has issued seven walks in 50 1/3 innings.
“The finger feels fine and looks fine on the bottom,” said Powers, who won his first seven starts last season before tearing a muscle in his elbow and finishing 11-5. “But on top, where the fingernail is, it looks pretty bad.”
Powers, who does not have a full scholarship, was loading metal brackets onto a truck last August when a glove he was wearing caught on a nail and a brace fell on his finger.
“The only thing holding (the finger) on was the nerve, which stretched more than an inch,” Powers said. “It was more numb than anything else. I didn’t think about losing the finger until a doctor said that was a possibility.”
Powers underwent 2 1/2 hours of surgery to repair the damage and a wire pin was inserted in his knuckle.
“I took 15 painkillers a day for the first few days,” he said. “It’s amazing how one little part of your body can cause so much pain to the rest of it.”
Powers will start today in the opener of a three-game conference series at Arizona State.
For openers: Pepperdine and Loyola, playing under first-year coaches Andy Lopez and Chris Smith, respectively, will open their WCAC schedules today.
Pepperdine, the defending WCAC champion, travels to Santa Clara for a four-game series and Loyola, which finished fourth in the WCAC last season, travels to the University of San Francisco.
Lopez won two California Collegiate Athletic Assn. titles in six seasons at Cal State Dominguez Hills before replacing Dave Gorrie, who retired after winning or sharing five conference titles in 10 years at Pepperdine.
Smith was an assistant at Loyola and also worked as a scout and instructor for the New York Yankees before he replaced Dave Snow.
College Baseball Notes
Stanford, the two-time defending national champion, is 12-15 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-10 Southern Division. Steve Solomon, a freshman outfielder from Santa Monica Crossroads High, was six for 14 with a home run and three RBIs for the Cardinal in a three-game series last weekend against Arizona.
California pitcher Travis Willis, a junior right-hander from Camarillo, suffered his first loss last Saturday against Arizona State. Willis is 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA. . . . Arizona State third baseman John Finn has a 22-game hitting streak. Sun Devil outfielder Mike Kelly, a freshman from Los Alamitos High, is batting .316 with six home runs, 32 RBIs and six game-winning hits. Dave Alexander, a senior right-hander from North Torrance High and Harbor College is 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA and three saves. . . . Arizona first baseman J.T. Snow, a junior from Seal Beach and the son of former Ram receiver Jack Snow, is batting .366 with four home runs and 30 RBIs.
UCLA second baseman Charlie Fiacco hit two three-run homers in UCLA’s 16-12 win over USC last Sunday. . . . Santa Barbara outfielder Jerrold Rountree has stolen 28 bases in 34 attempts. . . . Irvine first baseman Brian Young, recovering from reconstructive surgery on his cheekbone, had four hits and four RBIs in the Anteaters’ 22-3 victory over Dominguez Hills last week. . . . Corey Aurand, a transfer from Moorpark College, leads USC in batting at .368.
After a one-year hiatus because of conflicting spring break schedules, the 21st annual Riverside Baseball Invitational returns March 27-April 1 at UC Riverside. The six-team tournament, which features a round-robin format, includes Arizona State, Harvard, Washington State, Brigham Young, Oregon State and UC Riverside.