Loyola Marymount University's baseball team, which rolled merrily along until the final week of the season, suddenly finds itself in a playoff with Pepperdine for an automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs.
The Lions lost two of three at Nevada-Reno while Pepperdine swept a three-game series from Santa Clara last weekend, leaving both at 19-5 in the West Coast Athletic Conference. They'll clash in a one-game playoff at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Field to determine the automatic NCAA representative. For league purposes, the teams have been declared co-champions.
Loyola, which finished the regular season 44-12, expects to receive an NCAA bid regardless of Saturday's outcome. But the Lions, who were ranked No. 1 nationally during a streak of 20 wins in 21 games, have fallen out of favor with the pollsters this week--dropping to seventh in the Baseball America top 10 and to 11th in Collegiate Baseball.
Pepperdine, 35-18-2, feels it must win to be assured a tournament bid. The teams split their season series, 3-3.
At-large berths will be announced by the NCAA on Monday.
Loyola is expected to start ace senior Tim Layana, 15-2, against Pepperdine's 12-game winner, Mike Fetters. Layana owns nearly every pitching record at Loyola, including the 15 victories and 120 strikeouts this year. Layana's top sidekick is junior left-hander Mark Stomp, who led the team in victories for much of the season. His record is 12-4.