Matranga Is Hard to Beat : Pepperdine Shortstop Hopes to Add to Scrapbook


The exuberant dog pile at the mound at Fenway Park. The championship ring. The television cameras.

Those images flood David Matranga’s mind from time to time. But unlike most college baseball players, Matranga’s visions are not dreams. They are fond memories.

Pepperdine’s sophomore shortstop was the second baseman on the 1995 U.S. Junior National team that won the gold medal in the Junior Olympics by defeating Taiwan, 10-0, at Fenway. The team also played in Toronto’s SkyDome.


In a qualifying game against Cuba in front of a crowd of 10,000, Matranga doubled over the center fielder’s head to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

No wonder Matranga survived the first Team USA cuts last December and is invited to the final tryouts in June. No wonder he is perhaps Pepperdine’s most consistent player and one who responds well in pressure situations.

“I really gained maturity playing on the junior national team,” he said. “I dealt with the media, I played with and against the best, and it was amazing representing our country.”

Matranga played at Orange High and was a Times Orange County second-team selection in 1995, when, as a senior, he batted .494 with three home runs and 24 runs batted in. He is among only three Pepperdine players on full scholarship, and he’s earning every penny. He is an aggressive player who dives after ground balls, runs the bases with abandon and hits with good power for an infielder.

“He’s all business,” Coach Frank Sanchez said. “Dave wants to be a real good player. He’s driven. The way he goes about his game, the players and coaches respect him.”

Despite a recent slump, Matranga was batting .323 and led the team with eight home runs and 37 RBIs heading into last weekend’s four-game series against Santa Clara, which the Broncos swept.


However, he’d rather talk about his defense.

“I heard Alex Rodriguez [of the Seattle Mariners] say he’d take an 0 for 5 with no errors rather than go five for five with two errors,” he said. “That’s kind of the way I feel.”

Matranga had made only seven errors before this past weekend, and his fielding percentage of .964 is among the best in the nation for shortstops. He credits assistant coach David Esquer, a former Stanford shortstop, for helping him make the transition from second base lastfall.

Of course, playing home games on Pepperdine’s impeccably manicured field is a joy for any infielder.

After Pepperdine Coach Pat Harrison resigned last summer, Matranga could have decided to look for a greener pasture.

“I was playing in Alaska and got word he was leaving, and within days I was getting all these calls from coaches saying transfer here or there,” Matranga said. “Other coaches were bad-mouthing Coach Sanchez, but I decided I was going to find out for myself. It turns out he’s a great coach.”

Pepperdine (28-21) had won 21 of its past 25 games before running up against Santa Clara. The Waves are still hoping to qualify for the NCAA tournament.


“This is an amazing place,” Matranga said. “I look around and tell myself it can’t get much better than this.”