Walk-On Keeps Pepperdine on Run


“Kramer! . . .

“Are you gonna whine or are you gonna hit?”

Mike Kramer heard the piercing voice of Pepperdine Coach Frank Sanchez and abruptly stopped arguing with the umpire, who had just called strike two.

It was time to provide an answer. Kramer hit the next pitch from UCLA closer Jake Meyer on a line into right field to score Josh Oder and cap a three-run rally in the ninth inning that gave the Waves an 8-7 nonconference victory Tuesday at Pepperdine.

Kramer, a freshman walk-on catcher batting .176, laid down three sacrifice bunts in the game. But with one out, the bases loaded and the Bruins having pulled left fielder Jon Heinrichs into the infield, he had to swing away.


“Coach was trying to get me fired up,” Kramer said. “In that situation you don’t want to be caught with the bat on your shoulder.”

The Waves have gone from passive to aggressive in a hurry. After opening 4-10, Pepperdine (20-16) has won 16 of its past 22 games.

The Waves have won 13 of their past 14 at home, including ranked victims USC, Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State in addition to UCLA (28-7-1), ranked No. 2 by Baseball America magazine.

Early, the Bruins looked every bit the powerhouse, scoring three runs in the first and two in the second on two walks and three home runs, by Troy Glaus, Heinrichs and Eric Byrnes.

Glaus, an All-American infielder expected to be a high first-round draft choice in June, followed leadoff walks in the first to Heinrichs and Byrnes with a towering blast to left-center field, his 16th. It took left-hander Dave Reed 31 pitches to get through the inning.

Pepperdine scored two in the bottom of the first against Dan Keller, who needed 28 pitches to retire the side.


With two out in the second, Heinrichs and Byrnes each homered to give UCLA a 5-2 lead. The Waves cut the deficit to 5-3 in the fourth and a two-run homer by designated hitter Randy Wolf tied the score in the seventh.

UCLA scored two in the eighth against Eric Brubaker, the fifth of six Pepperdine pitchers, but the Waves refused to wither. A two-run single by Mark Lopez, a senior from Chatsworth High, tied the score in the ninth.

“I’m very pleased at the way we battled back,” Sanchez said, “although I would prefer to be battling ahead.”

The Bruins also used six pitchers, among them Gabe Crecion, a freshman from Chaminade High making his first appearance in a month because of tendinitis in his shoulder. Crecion was on the verge of getting his first victory after striking out Rob Reid and Pedro Loza to end the eighth.

But David Matranga doubled down the left-field line to open the ninth, and left-hander Rob Henkel (3-1) replaced Crecion. Henkel walked pinch-hitter Jeremy White, then threw late to third on a bunt by Oder, loading the bases.

Lopez followed with his single, and Henkel exited. With four saves and a 1.93 earned-run average, Meyer is the Bruins’ bullpen ace, but after getting Steve Zorn to ground out and walking Damon Katz intentionally to load the bases, he was nicked by Kramer.


“When I took the job I didn’t even know who Mike Kramer was,” Sanchez said. “But he’s money on defense and money handling pitchers.”

And with a little prompting from his coach, he cashed in at the plate as well.