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Long Beach State Fails Early Test Against USC

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It began as one of those marquee early-season matchups, complete with two high-profile conferences, teams and big-gun pitchers.

So much for promising beginnings.

Long Beach State didn’t hold up its end of the show in losing a nonconference game to USC, 6-1, Friday night in front of 1,579 at Blair Field. Long Beach fell behind, 3-0, after three innings and couldn’t create enough offense to make things interesting.

Long Beach (1-3), ranked No. 11 by Collegiate Baseball and 23rd by Baseball America, has lost five straight games against USC.

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The Trojans (6-1) are ranked third by Baseball America and sixth by Collegiate Baseball. They will likely stay among the best of the best all season if Randy Flores keeps doing what he did Friday.

Flores (3-0), a senior left-hander, pitched 6 2/3 innings, keeping the 49er hitters off balance with breaking pitches. Flores--the 1995 Pacific 10 pitcher of the year--gave up six hits, one earned run, struck out seven and walked two.

“I was mixing my pitches well and I rediscovered my curve after losing it for a while,” Flores said. “It hadn’t been working well for me and having all my pitches tonight really helped.”

The outing wasn’t as memorable for 49er starter Marcus Jones, last season’s Big West pitcher of the year. Jones (0-2) was done for the evening after a rocky fifth in which he gave up two hits and three runs.

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Jones, a junior right-hander, gave up five hits, six runs--five earned--while striking out seven and walking five. It was Jones’ poorest outing since giving up six runs in four innings against Notre Dame on March 9, 1996.

After the 49ers cut the Trojans’ lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI single by Casey Martin, the Trojans gave themselves some breathing room. With one out in the fifth, Jones walked Wes Rachels and Rachels stole second. Rachels went to third and Robb Gorr took first when Gorr’s line drive went through the legs of 49er third baseman Izzy Gonzalez for an error.

Marc Mirizzi laid down a perfect squeeze bunt, scoring Rachels. Greg Walbridge then doubled to left-center, scoring Gorr and Mirizzi to give USC a 6-1 lead.

In another nonconference game:

Cal State Fullerton 8, Arizona 6--Fullerton scored seven runs in the first and held on for the victory at Arizona. Matt Wise (1-0) pitched five innings for the ninth-ranked Titans (4-2). Brandon Duckworth picked up his second save of the season, working the final 2 1/3 innings.

The Wildcats (5-4), after giving up 30 earned runs on 31 hits through the first 10 innings of the series, finally shut down the Titans, giving up one unearned run on one hit in the final eight innings.


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