People came out in droves to watch the first ever NCAA baseball regional game at Long Beach’s Blair Field. Long Beach State catcher Todd Jennings didn’t waste time giving them something to remember.
Jennings hit the first pitch from Pepperdine starter Jacob Barrack over the left-field fence and the top-seeded 49ers went on to a 6-1 victory before 3,139 fans Friday night.
It was a record attendance for a Long Beach State home game.
Long Beach (39-18) will play Washington (41-16) today at 3 p.m. in a winners’ bracket game. Jered Weaver, who is 13-3 with a 1.99 earned-run average, will start for Long Beach.
Pepperdine (36-24) will play Minnesota (39-21) at 11 a.m., with the loser being eliminated.
Jennings sat out the three-game series against Miami last week with a sprained ankle. But the catcher extended his hitting streak to 24 games by jumping on a fastball from Barrack.
“The crowd really fired me up before the game,” Jennings said. “They gave me a lot of energy. I got a good pitch to hit.”
Barrack didn’t immediately recover from the blast. Tim Hutting walked and John Bowker singled to right. After a wild pitch moved the runners up, Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run single gave the 49ers a 3-0 lead.
Long Beach junior Abe Alvarez cruised for six innings. He got another run to work with when Jennings singled in Steve Velazco in the fourth inning.
Alvarez (11-1) ran into trouble in the seventh when the Waves loaded the bases with one out. The left-hander walked Patrick Rooney to force in a run.
“You get frustrated, but we’re taught here to deal to with it and move on,” said Alvarez, who walked a season-high four batters but gave up only four hits.
Brent Haapanen came to the plate as the potential winning run, but Alvarez got him on a called strike three for the second out. Kevin Estrada then hit a line drive to the left of Tulowitzki but the shortstop made a lunging catch to end the threat.
“He’s the first pitcher I’ve seen this year that mixes speeds like that,” Estrada said.
Long Beach added runs in the seventh and eighth on sacrifice flies by Mike Hofius and Jennings, who tied a season high with three runs batted in.
“It was a great night for our program and our city,” Long Beach Coach Mike Weathers said. “The ballpark had a lot of electricity.”
Barrack (9-3) pitched a complete game, giving up six runs and eight hits while walking five.
Washington 5, Minnesota 3 -- An eighth-inning single by Tila Reynolds broke a tie and a ninth-inning single by John Otness gave the Huskies an insurance run.
Will Fenton got out of jams in the eighth and ninth innings to record his 11th save. Fenton has not allowed a run in 31 2/3 innings this season.