With his best fastball on the final throw of a dominant 120-pitch outing, Long Beach State pitcher Jered Weaver provided the exclamation point in delivering the Big West Conference championship.
Weaver struck out Richie Burgos for his ninth strikeout to give the third-ranked 49ers their first regular-season title in six years with a 4-1 victory over Cal State Fullerton before a record-tying sellout crowd of 3,501 at Fullerton’s Goodwin Field.
“I definitely wanted to finish it,” said the sophomore, who threw a four-hitter. “I felt stronger as the game went on. In my bullpen session Tuesday, [pitching coach] Troy Buckley talked about when you get fatigued and finishing strong with my last 10 pitches.”
The title figures to have strengthened Long Beach’s bid to play host to an NCAA regional for the first time.
“I would hope so,” Long Beach Coach Mike Weathers said. “But you never know. It would be great to showcase the city of Long Beach and Blair Field.”
As the 49ers (37-15, 16-4) have done all year, they got enough hitting to support their ace’s pitching. John Bowker homered in the first inning, Chuck Sindlinger squeezed home Brad Davis in the second and Troy Tulowitzki singled in Todd Jennings.
Weaver (12-3) took it from there, getting stronger as the game went on. He retired 16 of the last 18 Titan hitters and didn’t give up a hit after the fifth.
“He was just dominant,” said Jennings, a junior catcher. “He was throwing harder tonight than he has all year. I told him [last night] that you’re going to throw a complete game.”
No. 4-ranked Fullerton (42-13, 14-6), also in the hunt to play host to a regional, plays its final regular-season game today against the 49ers, who have a home series against Miami next week.
-- Eric Stephens
The 2003 Pacific 10 Conference track and field championships, which conclude today at USC, could provide drama, or more dominance by Stanford and UCLA.
The stage is set for the closest margin of victory for the winning men’s team since 1974, when USC beat UCLA by four points. With seven events completed, Oregon has 59 points, followed by UCLA with 52 and defending champion Stanford with 47. But the Cardinal and Bruins have more qualifiers than the Ducks. Both teams expect to pass Oregon and battle for the title. UCLA has not won the men’s championship since 1998.
Eight events are complete in the women’s competition. Stanford’s 65 points gave it the early lead over Arizona State, with 46, and UCLA with 45. But the Bruins, who have won the last six conference championships, have many of their strongest events ahead of them.
The biggest surprise Saturday, before 1,550 at Loker Stadium at USC, came in the men’s long jump as UCLA’s Juaune Armon (26-1) upset USC’s Allen Simms, the conference’s top ranked leaper. Armon, on his next to last attempt, wound up beating Simms by an inch.
UCLA junior Cari Soong set a championship meet record in the women’s hammer throw (215-11), and USC freshman Ryan Wilson (13.60) set a stadium record during his heat of the men’s 110-meter high hurdles. Arizona State senior Tiffany Greer and USC junior Inga Stassiulionyte became the first three-time winners of the long jump and javelin.
Washington senior Brad Walker repeated as the men’s pole vault champion.
-- Mike Terry
Tairia Mims hit a two-run homer to key a four-run seventh inning as UCLA remained undefeated in the NCAA softball regionals with a 6-2 victory over Michigan State at Fresno. UCLA will play Michgan State again at noon today. The Spartans must beat the Bruins twice to advance, but UCLA (48-6) needs only one win.
At Fullerton, Oregon (35-18) made two first-inning runs stand up in a 2-1 victory over Cal State Fullerton that eliminated the top-seeded Titans (41-15). Jenny Topping hit a home run in the fifth for the Titans’ only run.