Loyola's Smith Gets 100th Win as Lions Sweep Santa Clara

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Loyola Marymount baseball Coach Chris Smith wanted to try something different in his attempt to gain his 100th career victory on Saturday.

Darkness was descending on Loyola's Page Stadium and the Lions were leading Santa Clara, 8-7, with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when Chris Gomez tripled to right-center field. Clean-up hitter Joe Ciccarella was walked intentionally and moved to second on a wild pitch.

So with his team trying to score an insurance run in a game that already had six hit batters and six wild pitches, Smith did the unexpected, sending Gomez on an attempted steal of home. Gomez was safe on a close play and Ciccarella advance to third.

On the next pitch, Smith sent Ciccarella, who was out at the plate.

Reliever Joe Caruso then shut down the Broncos for his second save of the day as the Lions completed a sweep of a doubleheader, 9-7. They won the first game 5-3.

On Friday, Loyola defeated Santa Clara, 6-2.

The victories allowed the Lions to keep pace with the West Coast Conference's first-place team, Pepperdine, which swept a three-game series from Nevada.

The Lions improved to 16-8 overall and 10-4 in WCC play, while Santa Clara fell to 9-13 and 7-7. Pepperdine remains on top by a half-game in WCC play at 9-2. The Lions and Waves play a three-game series next weekend in Malibu.

Smith notched his 100th Loyola victory in two-plus seasons despite a lackluster Loyola offense, which was out-hit in the doubleheader, 16-15. The Lions got a strong pitching effort in the first game from left-hander Jon Willard, who threw six innings and improved to 5-2. The key hit in the game was Ciccarella's two-run double in a three-run third.

Loyola jumped out to a 6-0 lead after three innings in the nightcap. The big inning was the third, when the Lions scored four runs on another RBI double by Ciccarella followed by a three-run home run by Darrell Deak, his second.

But Santa Clara rallied for five runs in the top of the fourth, as second baseman Deak committed two errors on the same play. The errors occurred with two out and led to four unearned runs. After Loyola scored a run in the seventh, Santa Clara scored one in the eighth and had runners on second and third. But Caruso ended the rally by getting a strikeout.

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