Baseball players seem to exploit the boundaries of psychology in the strangest ways.
Wednesday afternoon, Loyola Marymount's players dredged up an old ally from the playground days--good old-fashioned chatter--and used it to help them knock off UC Santa Barbara, 4-3, at LMU's Page Stadium.
The Lions set up an impressive wall of noise from their dugout during a sixth-inning rally. With it, they shook Santa Barbara's starting pitcher, Renay Bryand, out of a seemingly unshakeable groove.
Bryand responded to the chatter by issuing a pair of walks. Then he gave up a ringing double by Brian Turang into the left-center gap that chased home Robert Cannon and Carl Fraticelli, and Loyola Marymount had a 3-2 lead that it never relinquished.
"That was just a bunch of guys trying to stay loose (with the chatter)," said fourth-year Loyola Coach Dave Snow, whose Lions boosted their record to 4-2. "They were just trying to stay within themselves--they didn't say anything to that pitcher."
Not in so many words. But until the sixth, when he began to show fatigue, senior southpaw Bryand had been nearly untouchable.
Until Turang (two for three with three RBIs) crushed a 1-0 fastball on a line drive over the left-center field fence in the fourth inning, Bryand had retired 10 straight Lions and hadn't allowed a ball out of the infield since Fraticelli got a leadoff single in the first.
"(Bryand) had good command early on and he was cutting us up with his fastball," Snow said. "That's as good of stuff as we've seen so far this year. The difference for us was Turang--the way that guy was pitching I knew it was going to take one guy to clutch up."
At the end of the game, Loyola's defense held up well in support of senior reliever Scott Neill, who notched his first save. Rick Allen, spelling injured starter Donny Sparks at third base, turned in several nice plays and handled three tough chances to help thwart a ninth-inning Santa Barbara rally.
Another key play was made by junior right fielder Cannon, who lived up to his name in the second inning when he gunned down Kenny Genilla trying to go from first to third on a single with none out.
Junior lefty Terry Seward picked up his first win in relief of Loyola starter Mike Jones, who lasted five innings and gave up a long home run in the fourth to Gaucho catcher Steve Pratt that landed high up on the left-field screen.
Snow brought in the veteran Neill to stem Santa Barbara's ninth-inning bid. Lanky right-hander Kalani Bush, whom Snow would like to take command of Loyola's short relief role, had opened the inning by issuing a single and a walk to a pair of Gaucho pinch hitters.
Santa Barbara Coach Al Ferrer admitted he might have left his starter in a little long. The Lions got an insurance run in the eighth on Travis Tarchione's sacrifice fly off reliever Dave Salcido, who was mopping up for Bryand.
"(Bryand) might have gotten a little tired," said Ferrer, whose Gauchos dropped to 5-9. "But we stayed with him since this wasn't a conference game and we wanted to extend his arm. You have to pay some prices at this time of year."