Coach Dave Snow and Loyola officials were upset that part of the baseball team's final game of the College World Series last week was played in soggy conditions. Loyola held an early 4-0 lead over Oklahoma State when the rains came to Omaha. A hard thunderstorm delayed the game 76 minutes before moving through.
After play resumed, it began raining again and Loyola pitcher Tim Layana, who had looked sharp, began having trouble with his footing on the mound. The Loyola faithful felt the game should have been suspended at that point.
But it continued in the rain for about 10 more minutes, long enough for Oklahoma State to hammer Layana out of the game and score seven runs in the inning. Then the game was suspended until the next day. Loyola never recovered and was eliminated from the tournament.
When it was finally over--an 11-5 whipping--Snow was quick to remark that Oklahoma State had outplayed his team and he wouldn't use the weather as an excuse. However, when asked if he thought the game should have been suspended after the first rain delay, he gave a terse, "No comment."
Privately, Loyola officials were fuming about the conditions under which the game was allowed to continue. But the team probably will not make any formal complaint to the NCAA.
"It was our first year ever at the World Series and my first year here," Athletic Director Brian Quinn said. "I don't want to get a reputation as a complainer, either for myself or the school."
Another problem Loyola may have had was the long layoffs between games in Omaha. The Lions played the opening game and earned an extra day off by defeating Louisiana State. They went nearly 72 hours between games. Snow said he couldn't estimate the effect of the time off on his squad, but Loyola players uncharacteristically made several errors in losing to Arizona, 7-5, in the second game.
"The longer you wait the more anxious you get," Snow said after the loss. "We had some pretty intense practices . . . (but) we made a lot more mistakes then they did."
Loyola played its three games over a seven-day period. The team was used to playing almost every day. The increased media attention, coupled with first-time jitters, may also have had an impact.
"Overall I don't think we displayed the kind of discipline that got us here," Snow said. "For me, the biggest challenge was to keep our people focused on our game plan. I think we got away from it. I'm sure being here for the first time was somewhat of a factor in that regard."
Lions' Den: Most of the teams stayed at the Holiday Inn in Omaha, but Loyola stayed by itself, several miles away in the Red Lion Inn. Snow remembered the hotel from his championship days as an assistant at Cal State Fullerton.
But he said he didn't choose the hotel because Loyola's nickname is the Lions. In fact, for much of the season team members and boosters referred to the Lions as the Mules.
That's an honorable title, Snow explained to a boosters gathering before the first game. "A mule goes out there and puts in a full day, does an honest day's work. When he puts on the feed bag he's earned it," Snow said. "I've been called a mule. I like being called a mule.
"I've also been called a jackass. I don't like being called a jackass." Snow and the Lions were eliminated largely because the offense was shut down, but the Lions didn't lose for lack of trying. In the ninth inning of the Arizona game they may have run themselves out of a scoring opportunity by trying too hard.
With one out, Jim Bruske hit a hard single into the gap in left field but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double. The next batter, Fred Tuttle, followed with a single but was stranded.
Snow said of Bruske, "When a guy makes an aggressive mistake, it's hard to get on him. I teach aggressive baseball. I tell the guys 'think doubles' on singles. Maybe they're too aggressive. Maybe I have to tone them down."